In the UK, it’s estimated that cerebral palsy affects about 1 in 400 births and that there about 30,000 children living with the disorder. Cerebral palsy is the term commonly used to refer to a number of neurological conditions that affect muscle control and movement. Typically, this disorder occurs in pregnancy, childbirth, or early childhood – before the age of three. It is caused when a part of the brain responsible for controlling movement does not develop correctly or is damaged for some reason. It is a physical disability that affects sensation, movement, and the ability to communicate.
There are several possible causes of cerebral palsy, including infection in early pregnancy, lack of oxygen to the brain, abnormal brain development, and possibly genetics. When diagnosed, there are three main types of cerebral palsy: spastic, dyskinetic, and ataxic. With spastic cerebral palsy, muscles are stiff and weak. In dyskinetic cerebral palsy muscles range between stiff and floppy causing spasms and other uncontrolled movements. Poor coordination, tremors, and jerky movements are the hallmarks of ataxic cerebral palsy. Many patients will experience a conglomeration of the three types.
Diagnosis typically occurs between six months and two years of age, but some infants will exhibit obvious symptoms such as abnormal muscle tone.
Living with Cerebral Palsy
Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, treatments such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and communication aids can help making living with the disorder easier. Physiotherapy helps relax muscles and prevent limb deformities. In addition, exercises, braces, and mobility training help encourage movement and promote independence with dressing and feeding. Assistive aids also play a role in fostering independence for people living with cerebral palsy.
By reducing stress and promoting independence, practical aids help boost a child’s self-esteem and make living with cerebral palsy easier for the entire family.
Bath chairs and bath lifts make hygiene tasks easier, safer, and much less stressful for everyone involved.
The stiffness and tremors with cerebral palsy can make it difficult for the patient to feed themselves. Devices such as scooper bowls, soft grip bowls, junior cutlery, sure grip cups, drinking cups, and sippy cups help make the tasks of eating and drinking less stressful and neater.
Getting dress with stiff or weak limbs can be quite difficult. Items like elastic shoe laces, long handled combs, and dressing sticks make the process easier.
Living with cerebral palsy can feel limiting and isolating. Play and development items and work tables help children with cerebral palsy develop skills and interact with others.
Walking with or without help can be quite difficult for children with cerebral palsy. Thankfully, items like trotter chairs, junior rollators, posture walkers, and crutches help children with cerebral palsy move independently.
With support from doctors and other medical professionals and the right assistive devices, children with cerebral palsy can live happy, fairly independent and fulfilling lives.