By Eddie Jones, Partner and Head of Medical Negligence, JMW Solicitors
The joy and anticipation of watching our children grow, learn and thrive are among the most cherished experiences for parents. Yet sometimes unexpected medical conditions like cerebral palsy can alter the course of a child’s development.
Cerebral palsy is a complex condition stemming from brain damage that occurs during pregnancy, at birth or in the newborn period. This damage leads to lifelong physical and cognitive challenges. As such, recognising the signs of this condition early is vital to providing the best possible care for your child.
In this guide, we aim to assist parents in understanding and identifying the symptoms of cerebral palsy in their young children, to ensure that they are able to access the treatment they need to support their quality of life.
Cerebral palsy encompasses a range of conditions that affect movement, balance and posture due to abnormal development or damage in the brain. It is estimated that approximately 30,000 children in the UK live with cerebral palsy, and 2-2.5 out of every 1,000 babies are diagnosed with this condition.
The ways that cerebral palsy manifests can differ greatly among individuals, with symptoms ranging from mild weakness in the limbs to severe spasms that restrict the person’s movement. Common long-term health challenges associated with cerebral palsy include:
– Difficulties with muscle tone, stiffness and physical weakness
– Impaired coordination, irregular posture and lack of fine motor skills
– Challenges with swallowing
– Communication and speech disorders
– Learning difficulties
The underlying causes of cerebral palsy may be hard to pinpoint, but can include factors such as:
– A brain bleed or inadequate blood and oxygen supply during a difficult birth
– Infections in the mother during pregnancy
– Childhood infections like meningitis
– Traumatic head injury in infancy
– Low blood sugars that go untreated (hypoglycaemia)
– Mismanagement of newborn jaundice leading to kernicterus brain damage
If you are aware that your child experienced any of these issues in the early days of their life, you should be particularly vigilant about potential signs of cerebral palsy, in order to make sure that they are correctly diagnosed as soon as possible.
The symptoms of cerebral palsy usually emerge in the first few years and may vary based on the child’s age and the specific type of cerebral palsy. Here’s a breakdown of potential signs by age:
For infants under six months:
– Stiffness or floppiness when held
– Sagging head when lifted from lying down
– Overextension of the back or neck when held, as if pushing away
– Legs crossing and stiffening when picked up
For infants between six and 10 months:
– Struggling to roll over
– Difficulty in bringing hands together or to the mouth
– Reaching with one hand while the other remains clenched
For infants older than 10 months:
– Uncoordinated, lopsided crawling, with limbs dragging
– Hopping on knees or dragging by hands instead of traditional crawling
– Failure to reach the expected developmental milestones – for example,delays in sitting by eight months or walking by 18 months may indicate cerebral palsy
If you notice any of these signs, consult a healthcare professional promptly. Early diagnosis and intervention can enhance your child’s prospects for a positive future.
Managing cerebral palsy requires a personalised approach to ensure they can lead the most independent life possible. Potential interventions include:
– Physiotherapy for muscle strength and movement
– Speech and language therapy for communication and swallowing
– Occupational therapy for daily living skills
– Medications for physical symptoms like muscle stiffness
– Tailored educational support in special or mainstream schools
– Surgery for orthopaedic issues related to the condition
If medical errors during pregnancy, birth or infancy contributed to your child’s cerebral palsy, you should also consider consulting a specialist medical negligence solicitor. A compensation claim can provide the necessary financial support to deliver the best care and opportunities for the child. This includes funding for therapies, educational support, adaptive equipment and other resources that can make a significant difference in the child’s life.
As such, if you suspect that your child’s cerebral palsy resulted from substandard care during birth, it’s essential to consult with legal experts as soon as possible to see whether you might have grounds to make a claim.
Making sure that cerebral palsy is diagnosed early, and doing everything you can to obtain the right support for them, is a critical step in making informed decisions about your child’s care and treatment. It opens doors to various treatment options, goal-setting and professional guidance.
The prospect of a cerebral palsy diagnosis can be overwhelming and scary, but your dedication to getting the right care in place can make an immense difference in your child’s life. By arming yourself with knowledge and staying proactive, you are laying the groundwork to help your child reach their fullest potential.
Thanks for reading xxx
Hi and welcome to The Willow Tree. I’m Michelle, also known as Shel and I am a mama to three beautiful crazy kids – I have two handsome boys and a wild and wonderful girl.
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