02 September 2010

Having the first signs of cerebral palsy doesn’t set your child’s future in stone

One morning, I received a call from a woman named Elena who wanted to ask us some questions regarding her two month old granddaughter, Debbie. Elena had noticed that when Debbie’s back was touched, she would arch her back and throw her head backwards as well. Her right arm was always clenched in a fist, and she did not move very much. Elena told us that she had already gone to a pediatrician, but had been told that these were not signs of anything serious. As a mother with three kids herself however, she knew that there was something wrong. Considering the signs she had described, I knew that we had to bring Debbie in for some treatment. Once the girl was brought in, I could see why Elena was concerned. Debbie’s right leg did not move as much as her left, and her right hand was always clenched. Her body was stiff and tense, and when we tried lifting her off the ground, she would not tilt her head forward like a child would usually do.

These may be the first signs of cerebral palsy. If a child does not follow an object with his or her eyes, or does not want to turn his or her head to one side or the other, this may also indicate that something is wrong. The same can be said if a child does not grab for things with his or her hands, or if he or she is delayed in rolling, crawling and sitting. Should this be the case, it is best to start your child’s treatment as early as possible.

In the first few months of life, a child starts going through the normal stages of development. He or she learns how to roll, sit up, crawl, and move his or her arms and legs. If a child misses one of these milestones however, it will have a snowballing effect on the rest of his or her progress. For example, if he or she is not learning to get up and sit, it will impair his or her trunk mobility. As a result, the head or legs will not be used as much and the child will be unable to crawl properly. If we address these issues before they hinder a child’s growth and progress, we can minimize the effect of the condition in his or her daily life to a point where it is undetectable. That is why today, Debbie is completely cured, running and playing just like any child.

In many situations, both the medical and therapy community use a child’s diagnosis as a label accompanied by the claim of “permanent disability.” Yet, I have seen individuals with cerebral palsy who are able to lead independent, fulfilling lives. As a parent, it is up to you to teach your child about the world and to guide him or her through any difficulties he or she may come across.

So, if you see any behavior that seems atypical for your child, take initiative. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and gather as much information as possible. Go to more than one physician, and make sure to consult experts who deal with neurological disorders more often than your general pediatrician. Also, even if your child does get diagnosed, don’t let yourself doubt his ability to develop and become the best he can be. You must believe in your child’s abilities, and focus on making realistic goals and teaching him or her how to achieve them.

My philosophy is that there is no treatment, only life. That is why as a therapist, I believe that there are no exercises to learn, only function. When I have a patient, I only guide him or her during the function so that he or she will learn to do it independently. I also request parents to continue working with their child at home so that there is no disruption in the teaching and learning process. As a parent, don’t let anyone set your child’s future in stone, and remember: your child is capable of things no one can predict.

For more articles, visit http://www.enabledkids.ca

1 comment:

  1. Hi I am a young adult with cerebral palsy that blogs about my life with it
    I hope you will come and check it out at lifeofthedifferentlyabled.com cheers