Category Archives: Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

When Pursuing a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis, Persistence is Key

By John Lehman

Cerebral palsy is one of the most common developmental disorders in children. However, it may take years before an official cerebral palsy diagnosis is made. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else, including your child’s doctors. If you believe your child isn’t developing normally, insist that your doctor investigate your concerns.

Identifying the Signs of Cerebral Palsy

Knowing the most common signs of cerebral palsy will make it easier to determine if a trip to the pediatrician is in order. While it’s better to identify these signs as early as possible, a child can be diagnosed with cerebral palsy as late as the age of five. Medical professionals have identified specific clinical signs of cerebral palsy, which include disorders pertaining to the development of:

  • Muscle tone
  • Movement control
  • Reflexes
  • Posture
  • Balance
  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Oral motor skills

Typically, most young children will not be able to adequately explain their symptoms to their parents or doctors, so it’s up to parents and caregivers to look for these signs as early warnings of cerebral palsy.

Understanding the Causes of Cerebral Palsy

There are many causes of cerebral palsy, although not all causes have been identified. Some cases develop during pregnancy, while others develop during or shortly after birth. Cerebral palsy can develop as a result of irregular brain development or brain damage to the fetus, although other health issues have been implicated. Some instances of cerebral palsy are preventable, such as those that result from medical malpractice. Others occur naturally through no fault of the mother or her doctors. Though the causes are many, the diagnosis is often made using the same tests and procedures.

Talking to Your Doctor about a Diagnosis

If you believe your child may have cerebral palsy, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician or a doctor who specializes in neurology. The doctor will run a series of developmental screening tests on your child to determine whether or not your child has cerebral palsy and, sometimes, what might have caused it. These tests typically include testing blood and urine samples, performing an MRI and other tests.

Keep in mind that your doctor may not be able to make a diagnosis immediately, as the common signs of cerebral palsy may not be evident from the first exam. For example, your doctor may not have seen a significant delay in your child’s developmental milestones, and therefore may be hesitant to make a diagnosis until your child grows older. Additional testing and monitoring over time may be necessary to confirm or rule out the possibility of cerebral palsy. You may also consider speaking with another pediatrician for a second opinion. Arming yourself with more information and observations is always helpful when making a decision about your child’s wellbeing.

Getting Treatment

If your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, your doctor will recommend a specific treatment plan based on your child’s needs.

Most children diagnosed with cerebral palsy will undergo some physical therapy to improve their motor skills. Depending on the severity of their condition, the use of mechanical aids or even surgery may be required. Speech therapy may also be necessary if your child has difficulty developing communication skills. In some cases, children with cerebral palsy can use computerized communication devices to assist them. Another treatment for cerebral palsy involves using medications to reduce pain or address problems with muscle spasticity.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for cerebral palsy. However, with the right knowledge and a proper diagnosis, children affected by the disorder can go on to lead long and healthy lives. For more information on understanding and treating cerebral palsy for your child, visit the treatment section of CPFamilyNetwork.org.

 

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8 Things to Know After a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

For some parents, hearing the words “your child has cerebral palsy” for the first time is a huge shock. For many others, it only confirms what they have suspected for a long time. Still, some parents are relieved to hear the news; they knew something was wrong, and now that they know what it is, they can begin to take action.

Whatever your reaction was, once you get the diagnosis of cerebral palsy, there is no looking back. Armed with a diagnosis, it’s time to look toward the future and tackle the new challenges and opportunities ahead. Because cerebral palsy is such a broad term with a wide range of outcomes, it can be hard to know what to expect or where to begin. This list should get you off to a great start.

1. Do Your Research

You’re about to learn a whole new vocabulary of medical terms, assistive devices, and acronyms for anything and everything. Here is some information about the diagnosis, but additional research may be helpful. You’ll feel better if you get a better understanding of what you’re dealing with.

2. Build a Strong Team

You are going to deal with a lot of doctors and therapists. Most children with CP have frequent visits to the pediatrician. Your child may need surgery or medical procedures done. It is also typical for children with cerebral palsy to have a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist. Depending on your situation, you may explore nutritional therapy, aquatic therapy, hippotherapy, and a whole host of other therapies you’ve probably never heard of! There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but by taking certain measures from an early age, you can dramatically improve your child’s quality of life. Here are some explanations about different treatment and therapy options. If you are looking for recommendations for therapists, doctors, products, or any other type of cerebral palsy resource, our massive survival guide has a searchable database where people post ratings and reviews of their favorite resources. Finally, be sure to look into early intervention services in your state. Acting now can make a major difference later in your child’s life – don’t let the opportunity slip away!

 

3. Medicaid is Your Friend

Even good health insurance will only begin to cover the costs of raising a child with cerebral palsy. There are state programs that allow special needs families to waive the income qualification requirement to enroll in Medicaid. This is something you should look into as soon as possible because there is often a long waiting list. Check out the policies and procedures for enrolling in Medicaid in your state as soon as you can!

4. Consider Taking Legal Action

Cerebral palsy can be caused by a number of different things before, during, and after birth. Many of these cannot be prevented. If, however, you suspect your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by a preventable birth injury or other medical error, you should speak with a medical malpractice lawyer about your case. You may be able to pursue legal action and obtain a settlement to help provide a more comfortable life for your child. Here is some information on legal rights and help.

5. Remember… You’re Part of a Network!

You are not going through this alone. Luckily, the disabled community tends to be very active, supportive, and welcoming. It’s like you just gained access to an elite club. Plus, there are some issues that come with raising a special needs child that your friends won’t fully understand unless they have been through it too. Our Facebook page and forum are good places to start, but check out local groups or organizations, too. Or, embrace the online community of bloggers!

6. Don’t Forget to Care for Yourself

Your child’s needs are important, but yours are too. Sometimes you might feel guilt, shame, frustration, anger, hopelessness… and that’s okay. If you need to leave your child with a sitter or a family member and take a day off once in a while, that’s fine! A happy caretaker is a good caretaker. If you can find the little things that bring you peace, whether that means going for a run or eating a king-sized candy bar, seize them.

7. This is Going to Change Your Life

Whatever assumptions you had when you were planning for a healthy baby, put them aside. From first steps to little league to prom, graduation, and marriage, the path your child is going to take will probably be very different from what you imagined. That’s not to say they won’t accomplish the same things – depending on their situation they may or may not be able to do all of the above – it just might take them a little longer or a little more effort to get there. Try to stay open minded about whatever kind of life is in your child’s future.

8. It will be Okay

This marks the beginning of an incredible journey. Through all the struggles, you will find unbelievable benefits. You will never feel more loved or needed than while caring for a child with cerebral palsy. It will be more rewarding than you ever imagined and you are going to learn a ton about yourself, true friendship, hard work, and unconditional love. Welcome to the world of special needs parenting.

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FREE MEDICAL AND LEGAL RESOURCES

The Cerebral Palsy Survival Guide is a free, state-specific resource list for everything from everyday activities to emergency situations.

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