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4 Things to Know about Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is the term for a group of disorders that involve nervous system and brain functions resulting from damage at or before birth.  It accounts for the most common motor disability in children.  Depending on variables such as education or experience, not only can the term “Cerebral palsy,” mean many different things to different people, it can result in an array of emotions.  Individuals who suffer from CP deal with varying degrees of physical challenges, loneliness, self-doubt and others’ conceptions – whether accurate or not.  Associated networks such as neighbors, coworkers or classmates may feel unease or uncertainty as to how to reach out, react or help.  Also, Parents of diagnosed individuals are typically left feeling concerned and/or scared.  A considerable amount of the negative emotion can ultimately be attributed to inadequate awareness.

Most People With CP Have Considerable Cognitive Ability

If an individual suffers from Cerebral Palsy, it doesn’t automatically mean his or her’s cognitive functioning is impaired.  In fact,  some cases of Cerebral Palsy only affect an individual’s  physical functioning.  According to the National Institute of Neurological Disabilities and Stroke, 50-70 percent of CP cases are accompanied with little-to-no intellectual impairment.  In cases that do involve cognitive issues, management is typically suggested and/or required.  While CP can’t be reversed, both anecdotal accounts and research shows therapies, care-management and other support interventions vastly help individuals with CP as well as their families.

You can NOT “Catch” CP

Unlike an illness, Cerebral Palsy cannot be spread by breathing the same air,  droplet transfer or contact — brain injury is not communicable.  Furthermore, CP is not a progressive impairment either.  Although there is technically no cure for cerebral palsy, different therapies, education, applied technology and adaptive devices can significantly help those affected lead productive lives.  It’s important to remember that CP is not a disease or illness, nor is it contagious.  

“Dinner for a Difference” | Buffalo Bills Helping CP Community

CP Exists On a Continuum

Everyone affected by Cerebral Palsy faces challenges that are unique to the individual.  Whether they involve mobility, communication, range of motion or and/or activities of daily living, a myriad of assistive technology and treatments are available that reflect the corresponding variations of challenges.  Some individuals with CP are able to walk unaided while others require assistance.  It’s important to explore everything that’s available, including a variety of wheelchairs, mechanical lifts,  commode/bathing equipment and writing tools.  Additionally, devices such as  adaptive tricycles can be used for  exercise, coordination, self-esteem and anti-gravity therapy.  Communication devices are now able to assist in many ways specialized to needs — including letters, signs, pictures or even voice.

There are Several Different Variations

It may be easy for people to identify Cerebral Palsy as one, singular disorder.  But in actuality, it consists of a group of varying disorders.  The most common type is referred to as Spastic CP, which involves an individual’s muscles being significantly stiff.  Other types include Athetoid, which cause either fast and jerky or slow muscle movements and Ataxic, with affects coordination.  CP does not discriminate in context to muscle groups — it can affect all of them.  Most people may not think of it right away, but CP can affect a person’s ability to swallow and should be considered when developing individualized care plans.  

Additional Cerebral Palsy Facts

  • More than one-half of children with CP have hemiplegia (one side of the body is paralyzed, as typically seen in adult stroke).
  • One in nine people with cerebral palsy have features of autism (Aspire also specializes in autism services in WNY)
  • One in four people with cerebral palsy have epileptic seizures.
  • New treatments are being developed to alleviate challenges caused by CP — they include medications, regenerative techniques, physical/cognitive therapy, robotics, functional neuromuscular stimulation, biofeedback.
  • CP is more common among boys than girls, and more common among black children than among white children.
  • Over half (about 58%) of children with CP can walk independently.
  • With the appropriate services and support, children and adults with CP can stay well, active, and a part of the community.

Remember that there are networks of community services available for the developmentally disabled — including vocational training assistance in Western New York.  Cerebral Palsy is a disability that causes a wide spectrum of challenges, unique to each individual, and increasing awareness provides benefits to everyone.

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