Cerebral palsy is a threat that almost every parent fears about. Not only in India, but also in the rest of the world, it is a common phenomenon that children suffer from or are born with. In India alone, 1 in every 500 children is born with cerebral palsy and the approximate number of affected is 33,000 as stated by the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy. Whereas in the United States of America, according to a report by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.1 children in every 1000 suffer from CP, with a total of 764,000 Americans having CP.
However, what is unknown or ignored is the fact that living with cerebral palsy or dealing with children suffering from this disease is not something absolutely impossible. They, rather, can live happily, long and quality lives if provided a little care, attention and patience.
Let's have a look at what cerebral palsy is and its symptoms so as to understand how people with cerebral palsy and the parents could live better.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
The term cerebral palsy or CP generally refers to a range of neurological disorder that can affect infants or babies in their early childhood, but not later. However, it is a permanent condition that affects the movement of the body as well as affects the muscle coordination. But it remains the same throughout life, and does not worsen.
Usually it develops within children in their age of 2 or 3 years, where the parts of the brain that controls muscle development are damaged. Hence, the child becomes crippled for the rest of the life.
Symptoms Of Cerebral Palsy:
Although CP can affect an infant since his or her birth, that is they can be born with the disease, but it is not until they miss the developmental milestones (attaining head control, sitting balance, standing to name a few) that it can be understood or recognised that they have been the victims of this disease. The very early signs and symptoms through which it can be identified are:
- Ataxia troubles – muscle coordination problems while performing voluntary activities
- Spasticity troubles – exaggerated reflexes and stiffness in muscles
- Walking on toes, dragging legs, crouched gait
- Learning disabilities – speech or language, vision and hearing troubles
- Reasoning and thinking difficulty
- Occasional seizures.
It is found that one in every 3 patient suffering from CP gets occasional seizures and 35% to 50% children with CP have some level of mental retardation.
Children with Cerebral Palsy can definitely live a better life despite their limitations and problems and their parents can always help them in doing so. Across the globe there are plenty of special schools available for children with cerebral palsy. These schools play a crucial role in imparting knowledge to the children. Many are equipped in a way to cater special education according to the intellectual ability of the child. It helps them in bringing back to the normal lifestyle, make them self-dependent and prolong their lifespan. Apart from the conventional treatments of physiotherapy, alternative therapies is found to be very useful for these children as it serves various purposes and focuses on developing the abilities that the child lack.
What Parents Need To Know About Cerebral Palsy:
Discovering that your child is a victim of cerebral palsy is a difficult situation to cope with. But as soon as you accustom yourself with this fact, you will be able to live with this truth and also arrange for and provide a better life to your child. As mostly, this disease is a disability associated only to physical difficulties, with mild to strong support, depending on the needs of the patients, you can certainly give them as much as freedom of living as any other person would require. Those, who have cognitive disorders, can be supported with alternative treatments and therapies to give them a better life.
Help With Therapeutic Support For Cerebral Palsy:
Parents, who have children suffering from cerebral palsy, can always provide their children with a better life through an exposure to alternative therapies.
Children, who are living with cerebral palsy, can always acquire greater independence regarding their condition. Infants and children with this disability and belonging to the age group of 0 to 6, can always be provided with the early intervention programmes conducted by centres working for and with patients of cerebral palsy. As early age is the tender stage, this can be very useful for you as a parent to provide your child with a support that would help him adjust with his difficulties. Each and every child suffering from CP has ability in some of the spheres and hence, these programmes help them to discover and work on that strength. Occupational Therapists, Speech Pathologists, Physiotherapists, Clinical Psychologist and Social Workers work together to make this happen.
Training The Child With Cerebral Palsy To Get Command Over Expression – The biggest difficulty for patients with cerebral palsy is their inability to participate in verbal and non-verbal communication. With a speech therapy, that can be improved by experts. The experts work with developing the patient's oral muscle, jaw control and swallowing to improve language skills. It is of great help to the children to give them a command over their expression.
Train The Child With Cerebral Palsy To Eat By Themselves – As children with cerebral palsy often suffer from insatiate appetite because of their impairment of swallowing, they often have a mood swing. Primary care physicians determine a diet of supplement that can help them with letting them eat gradually on their own. This nutrition and diet therapy can be followed by your child, all by themselves. Parents are counselled how to maintain the diet and how to take care of the baby's feeding habit and the children are helped to learn how to eat.
Train The Child With Cerebral Palsy To Be Self Dependent – Children with neurological and mobility impairment can learn to solve problems with comprehensive education as well as develop a self-reliant "orthofunctional" personality. This can follow vocational training and counselling depending on the intelligence, interests, aptitude, abilities and skill levels. In most cases, these therapists partner with businesses, educational institutions, government agencies, and employment industries that entertain mutually beneficial opportunities for these special children.
Be Established – Proper occupational training can improve the patient's day-to-day activities at home, school, in the public or at work. Reasoning, problem solving ability, coordination in works, decision making, sequence understanding and memory is improved through therapeutic support. Since every child with physical imparity or cognitive imparity in some areas, has ability to flourish in some other, identifying them and encouraging them through proper occupational therapies will ensure that they have a greater and better meaning of living.
The therapies are individualized and are designed to help the patients live a better life. However, these are long processes that demand the parents to keep their patience and continue along with other traditional treatment procedures at the hospitals through surgeries and medication, but the side effects are nil and it can benefit the child in various ways.
Living A Happy And Better Life With A Child Suffering From Cerebral Palsy:
It is a fact that no parent desires to have a child with unhealthy condition and that too forever. However, those who have a child suffering from this disease should not lose hope or grieve forever for this. Though accepting the truth is hard, yet taking it as a challenge and living it sportingly will provide you with some relief and you will be able to even give your child a better life.
Discovering And Adjusting With The Truth:
The first thing that troubles most parent is the discovery of the disease. At the very early stage, where the baby does not have any communication skills developed would not be able to let the parents know about the trouble and parents might not identify the issues as unusual. Only when there is delay in the growth and development of the baby and one goes to the doctor, they will discover the fact. This is the most difficult phase as dreams seem to shatter. Nevertheless, be patient and accustom yourself with the truth as only when you are stable you can provide hope to the child.
Understanding The Child And Educating Yourself:
The very basic trouble is to understand the child and his or her troubles. In such a case, the local and national cerebral palsy institutes will be able to help you. There you will find other parents with similar problems that you are facing, and talking with them will help you understand how to understand, cope and deal with a problem and discover new techniques that are suitable for you and your child.
Moreover, before burdening your child with too many therapists, it is very crucial that you educate yourself. Do not hope too much from the child and do not expect for complete recovery. With little improvements, try to feel satisfied and be patient with your child.
Identifying The Potential Of The Child With Cerebral Palsy:
It is a fact that none of the children having cerebral palsy have similar conditions and experiences. Each is an individual and has to be treated individually. The goal of the parents should be to identify the complete potential of their children. What most people are mistaken about is that they never try to recognise their children's capabilities and consider them 'unable' of anything.
But the fact is that cerebral palsy does not keep the patients from going to school, making friends or do any other tasks that most us are accustomed to deem as 'normal'. They only do these things a little differently. Understand that it is a team work where you will be working with multidisciplinary experts like physicians, therapists including physical, occupational, and speech, psychologists, nurses, educators and special education teachers. With their help, develop the cognitive and basic communication skills of your child and thus gradually discover what he or she is most interested in doing or does best. Encourage them to achieve those tasks and enjoy every moment with them when they are trying to achieve something on their own.
Get Help And Be Happy:
If you consider your child's cerebral palsy as the end of the world, you will neither be able to accept it and nor help your child to understand his or her rights and provide them with a better life ahead. Ask for help from others. Spend time with your loved ones, so that life seems to be without any problem. If you are happy, you will be able to make your child happy. If you have other children, do not ignore them also and do not spend your entire attention in dealing with your child with cerebral palsy. Since neglecting one child and giving the whole attention to the other can bring in sibling rivalry and also make your child with cerebral palsy too pampered. This can in turn pose a hindrance for his will to overcome his failure and the rivalry between the two children could bring future problems in them and also an additional stress and tension for you. If needed, make the necessary constructional changes in the house, so that it helps your child with cerebral palsy to adapt better and be independent in his own way.
Though it is very difficult to deal and cope with the challenges that come along with cerebral palsy, yet helping each other and being patient will help you and your child to live a better life. Try to help your child to do things by himself or herself and secure a future that is not too ambitious. This will make things easy for both of you.