Because cerebral palsy is caused by defects in the part of the brain that governs movement and muscle coordination, it results in numerous kinds of physical disabilities. These are related to the type and location of the brain that is damaged.
Cerebral palsy can affect the ability to control movement in the arms, legs and face. It may affect:
- All four limbs
- Three limbs as in both legs and an arm
- Both legs or both arms
- Or only one limb, usually an arm
The disorder also may show up as difficulty of movement and muscle control in only one side of the body, as in an arm and leg on only the right or left side. Cerebral palsy can affect muscles of the tongue and mouth, compromising language and speech and resulting in communication difficulties.
Cerebral palsy is classified according to the type of movement disorder. These classifications are:
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy, in which the muscles are stiff and tight and act against each other. This most common form of cerebral palsy results in stiff, jerky movements.
- Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, which produces writhing movements and results from an inability to coordinate and control muscles. Patients with this kind of cerebral palsy are always moving.
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy is the rarest form of the condition. Children with ataxic CP have problems with balance and depth perception. Characterized by poor muscle tone, unsteadiness of the hands, and walking with a stagger, this is the least common form of the disorder.
- Mixed-type cerebral palsy occurs when there is a combination of the other types of the disorder and results from damage to more than one area of the brain.
The earlier the diagnosis, the sooner the child can begin therapy to help the particular problem. Doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists among others can work with the child to improve the affected part of the body. Behavioral therapists are also important in helping the child and family deal with the emotional aspects of the disease.
Horseback riding therapy, also called hippotherapy, is being used to help children with cerebral palsy improve muscle coordination and self-esteem. The therapy improves gross motor function and helps improve muscle symmetry in the child's trunk and hips. The children are encouraged to speak to the horses to give them commands, thus helping to improve their speech and language.
Depending upon the location and type of brain damage, some children may have cerebral palsy combined with other physical impairments. These problems are also caused by brain disorders but their causes are separate from the cause of cerebral palsy. At times, the symptoms of these disorders may resemble those of cerebral palsy. These include:
- Spina bifida, in which the spine does not develop properly and the movement of the legs is affected
- Muscular dystrophy, a hereditary condition in which the muscles weaken and waste away
If your child has physical disabilities and you suspect medical malpractice is to blame, contact our cerebral palsy attorneys today.