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What is the Quality of Life Like for a Child with Cerebral Palsy?

In this article, we explore how children with cerebral palsy livelihoods are affected including things such as, their mobility, education and eating and drinking habits…

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There are approximately 30,000 children with cerebral palsy in the UK, with between two and two and a half children for every 1000 born affected by the condition. With recent statistics published by the NHS finding that 1 in 12 cases could have been avoided, there has been an increase in cerebral palsy claims.

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Today, we’re going to be looking at the factors which cause cerebral palsy, the symptoms, and the kind of life that parents can expect for a child born with the condition. Keep reading to find out more…

What is Cerebral Palsy?

A neurological condition is usually identified in the first year or so of a child’s life; cerebral palsy ranges from mild to severe and can affect movement and communication. In severe cases, cerebral palsy will cause disability to the point that the individual will need lifelong care.

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Cerebral palsy is generally caused by an event which affects a baby’s development while in the womb which either damages the brain or results in a reduced supply of blood or oxygen. Such events can include:

  • Infection: if the mother develops an infection during pregnancy, such as chickenpox, rubella or toxoplasmosis.
  • Stroke: bleeding in the baby’s brain while in the womb can limit the flow of blood to the brain.
  • Injury: head injuries caused to the baby during or shortly after birth.
  • Choking or drowning: these will both limit the amount of oxygen to the baby’s brain.

As well as regular GP checks, it’s recommended that expectant mothers avoid alcohol, nicotine and drugs during the pregnancy in order to minimise the risk of a baby born with cerebral palsy.

Cerebral Palsy and Medical Negligence

While cerebral palsy can occur naturally in the womb before birth, this condition can also be caused by medical negligence during the baby’s birth, for example:

  • Failure to adequately monitor the baby’s heartbeat for signs of distress and oxygen deprivation.
  • Delivery delays.
  • Failure to diagnose jaundice which can lead to brain damage.
  • Failure to diagnose meningitis.
  • Failure to treat low blood sugar.
  • Trauma caused to the baby’s head during birth, including injury caused by medical instruments such as forceps.
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Damage caused by negligence can mean that a child born with cerebral palsy will in worst cases, need 24-hour care for the rest of his or her life. In the year 2020/2021, 268 compensation claims were brought by parents against NHS trusts which have paid out a staggering £4.3 billion in damages over the past decade.

Quality of Life for a Child with Cerebral Palsy

As we’ve mentioned, cerebral palsy ranges from mild to severe and, while those suffering from a mild case may enjoy a relatively normal quality of life, in other cases, the condition cause extreme disability. Challenges may include:

Mobility

One in three children born with cerebral will be affected by severe mobility issues and will be unable to walk. Many will be unable to sit up by themselves by the age of two. For these children, any kind of independence will be extremely difficult as they will need constant care during their day-to-day life.

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Communication

While one in four children with cerebral palsy are unable to speak, others experience muscle and respiratory co-ordination issues which result in speech being slurred or difficult to understand. Although this presents a significant challenge to children and parents, many learn to adapt through the use of sign language and other methods of communication.

Eating and Drinking

Reduced motor controls mean that a great number of children with cerebral palsy will find it difficult to feed themselves. Sometimes they experience difficulty and discomfort in chewing and swallowing, and will require close supervision by parents or careers during mealtimes.

Pain and Discomfort

Unfortunately, many children with cerebral palsy will regularly experience pain and discomfort due to their condition, which will need to be managed through medication and physical therapy. This can often lead to children being unable to form significant friendships with other children, as well as affecting day to day tasks and independence.

Vision and Hearing

A large percentage of children born with cerebral palsy suffer from vision and hearing impediments, including blindness in 1 in 10 children. These impairments can seriously affect quality of life and independence, particularly when they have another disability associated with the condition.

Learning

In some cases, children with Cerebral palsy will have learning difficulties such as a short attention span, an inability to understand sequencing as well as severe difficulties with motor co-ordination and communication. This can often mean that learning within a mainstream school is difficult.

Kids Quality of Life with Cerebral Palsy

Kids Quality of Life with Cerebral Palsy
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

Don’t Let a CP Diagnosis Stop You!

While a diagnosis of cerebral palsy in a child is devastating for parents, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the child will face a life of disability and dependence. In many cases, children will be able to adapt in order to overcome the challenges of their condition.

Parents should always seek the help of medical professionals as soon as possible in order to gain the help that they will need to assist their child in living as healthy, happy and productive a life as possible.

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained medical professional. Be sure to consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.

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