- Every 20 hours, an Australian child is born with cerebral palsy.
- It is the most common physical disability in childhood.
Cerebral palsy is a condition where there is an injury to the brain that remains static however, as the body grows the way the it presents changes, as muscles and bones are pulled and developed over time.
Cerebral palsy presentation is on a spectrum.
On the mildest end children are very capable and can walk but may have slight balance issues. Often these children have issues on just once side of their body. Called hemiplegia. For other children difficulties can affect the whole body and need specialist equipment.
This spectrum is commonly known as GMFCS levels and helps to understand a child’s level of need.
The first time we can start to use this scale is around the age of 2 where skills can be identified and we can better predict future outcomes.
In a baby the movement difficulties are very subtle to see because children are not moving with purpose. However, little issues can be noticed like asymmetries and poor quality movements which are identified by specialist physiotherapist who works with young children.
The intention is to monitor children who are at greatest risk of having any issues to identify any signs of cerebral palsy to access early intervention to minimise long-term difficulties and this is done by harnessing brain plasticity.
Early Intervention is supporting the brain and body to move in more efficient ways and to use muscles that may be slightly weaker or stiffer and to train the body to find other pathways around any damaged areas.
Your physiotherapist will support ways to keep the body relaxed and develop head control, midline and symmetry.
Children with cerebral palsy can also have associated conditions. The first things we notice is often movement and feeding issues but being aware of other issues helps to support your child’s development.
- 1 in 2 has an intellectual impairment.
- 1 in 3 cannot walk.
- 1 in 3 has hip displacement.
- 1 in 4 has epilepsy.
- 1 in 4 has a behaviour disorder.
- 1 in 4 cannot talk.
- 1 in 5 is tube fed.
- 1 in 5 has a sleep disorder.
- 1 in 10 has a severe vision impairment.
- 1 in 25 has a severe hearing impairment.
It can be daunting knowing what treatment to access but the Novak 2019 research paper has looked at the most effective treatment in cerebral palsy as you navigate intervention options. This paper outlines the best evidence of what is most effective and pictorially shows these treatments in green.
If you need help navigating your treatment Klint Kids would be happy to support you.