A while back I watched Miss You Can Do It (be sure to have enough tissues if you can muster up the courage to do so). It is about Abbey Curran, Miss Iowa USA 2008 and the first woman with a disability to compete at the Miss USA Pageant. Abbey was born with Cerebral Palsy but didn’t let that hold her back for one second. I was amazed at this beautiful, strong and wonderful woman that didn’t let her disability define her.
Thereafter I did some reading on the internet and realised that the public is really uninformed regarding Cerebral Palsy and what the diagnosis means. That is why, in today’s article we will take a closer look at what it means, causes, the different types and the management thereof.
Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder caused by a non-progressive brain injury or malformation. Although Cerebral Palsy can be defined, having Cerebral Palsy does not define the person.
Defining Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is caused by brain damage (by brain injury or abnormal development of the brain that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing — before birth, during birth, or immediately after birth).
Every case is unique and how a brain injury affects a child’s motor functioning and intellectual abilities is highly dependent on the nature of a brain injury, where the damage occurs, and how severe it is.
Generally, it affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.
Individuals affected were likely born with the condition, although some acquire it later.
The brain damage that causes Cerebral Palsy is a result of either:
Types and forms
Classification based on severity level
Cerebral Palsy is often classified by severity level as mild, moderate, severe, or no CP. These are broad generalizations that lack a specific set of criteria.
Classification based on topographical distribution
Topographical classification describes body parts affected. The words are a combination of phrases combined for one single meaning.
The prefixes and root words are combined to yield the topographical classifications commonly used in practice today.
Classification based on motor function
The brain injury that causes Cerebral Palsy affects motor function, the ability to control the body in a desired matter. Two main groupings include spastic and non-spastic. Each grouping has multiple variations and it is possible to have a mixture of both types.
Motor function classification provides both a description of how a child’s body is affected and the area of the brain injury. Using motor function gives parents, doctors, and therapists a very specific, yet broad, description of a child’s symptoms, which helps doctors choose treatments with the best chance for success.
Non-spastic Cerebral Palsy is divided into two groups, ataxic and dyskinetic. Together they make up 20% of Cerebral Palsy cases. Broken down, dyskinetic makes up 15% of all Cerebral Palsy cases, and ataxic comprises 5%.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy affects coordinated movements. Balance and posture are involved. Walking gait is often very wide and sometimes irregular. Control of eye movements and depth perception can be impaired. Often, fine motor skills requiring coordination of the eyes and hands, such as writing, are difficult. It does not produce involuntary movements, but instead indicates impaired balance and coordination
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy is separated further into two different groups; athetoid and dystonic.
Because non-spastic Cerebral Palsy is predominantly associated with involuntary movements, some may classify Cerebral Palsy by the specific movement dysfunction, such as:
A child’s impairments can fall into both categories, spastic and non-spastic, referred to as mixed Cerebral Palsy. The most common form of mixed Cerebral Palsy involves some limbs affected by spasticity and others by athetosis.
Managing Cerebral Palsy
There’s an adage that knowledge is power. This is certainly true, but something parents may not consider – it can be a source of comfort.
I reiterate again, although Cerebral Palsy can be defined, having Cerebral Palsy does not define the person. Although the diagnosis comes with numerous challenges, there is help out there.
Retha Booyens (RD) SA