Cerebral Palsy Awareness
March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness month. Awareness is knowledge, and education is a key element in helping people understand cerebral palsy conditions.
This issue is important to me because my son, Austin, is diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to his brain injury. When he was diagnosed I had had only a little knowledge of what cerebral palsy meant, which left me with many questions. How would this affect my son? Our lives? What does this even mean? The doctors gave me the only answer they could: Only time will tell what Austin’s brain injury would mean for him. The brain affects everything the body does. The brain controls all.
The definition of cerebral palsy, according to PubMed Health: “Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that involve brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking. There are several different types of cerebral palsy, including spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, hypotonic, and mixed. Cerebral palsy is caused by injuries or abnormalities of the brain. Most of these problems occur in the womb but they can happen at any time during the first two years of life, when a child’s brain is still developing.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. The CDC estimates that an average of 1 in 303 children in the U.S. have CP.”
According to the nonprofit Reaching for the Stars, there are many misconceptions about cerebral palsy. The fact is that children and adults with CP have a wide range of varying abilities and disabilities. CP is a general term that encompasses mild, moderate and severe disabilities. People need to know that CP is not contagious, it is noncommunicable. In this sense it is not a disease. It also is non-progressive but problems with the body can worsen over time, though therapy can help prevent and even improve different parts of the body. CP is not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves, it is caused by damage to motor areas in the brain which disrupt the brain’s ability to adequately control movement and posture. “Cerebral” refers to the brain and “palsy” to muscle weakness/poor control. Although cerebral palsy is not yet “curable” in the accepted sense, medical management and therapy can help improve function, and many promising therapies and treatments are currently being investigated.
For my son, therapy is a crucial factor in keeping his body healthy and working the best it can. He has made very slow gains, but any little improvement for him leads to a better quality of life. Keeping his body in healthy alignment prevents further problems. It is really a necessary factor for his life.
Most importantly, my son and many others with CP are people first. They might need more supports or do some things differently, but are human just the same. Like everyone they need love, laughter and the right to pursue their dreams.
If Austin could talk, I think he would tell you this: “Please don’t stare at me and my equipment. Smile at me. Say hello. Even if I can’t talk, I might know much more than you think. I have my ways to communicate. Give me a chance. I am human, too. And I love to smile and laugh.”
I hope that more awareness will lead to more research to better the lives of those with CP and maybe even in my biggest dream: a cure, a way to heal the brain, which is the cause of CP. Hey, a girl can dream.
For more information go to MyChild at CerebralPalsy.Org – The Ultimate Resource for Everything Cerebral Palsy (800) 692-4453.
Posted in Catching Curve Balls on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 3:08 pm.