Around 1 in every 400 children in the UK is affected by cerebral palsy, with approximately 1,800 babies diagnosed with the condition every year.
The term 'cerebral palsy' is a general term which covers a number of neurological conditions which affect a child's movement and co-ordination, and is caused by damage to the brain before, during or soon after birth. Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, it is not a progressive or degenerative condition and, in most cases, the symptoms can be managed effectively through a range of therapies such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and treatment of pain through medication. You can find out further information about the treatment of cerebral palsy on the NHS website.
The Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
The symptoms of cerebral palsy vary greatly depending on the child and the type of cerebral palsy they are diagnosed with. Some children will have mild symptoms, while others will be profoundly disabled and require lifelong care and support. Cerebral palsy predominantly affects the muscles, but many children also experience related conditions and problems such as epilepsy, learning difficulties, visual or hearing impairment, difficulties with communication and delayed growth.
Although the condition affects the muscles, it is actually caused by damage to the part of the brain known as the cerebrum. This can occur during pregnancy, birth or shortly after the child is born.
Cerebral palsy is a complex condition and there often a number of factors that can be attributed as a cause. Damage to the white matter of the brain, abnormal development of the brain or bleeding in the brain can all cause cerebral palsy. Such conditions may be a result of an infection during pregnancy, the mother suffering abnormally high or low blood pressure, altered genetic structure or a difficult or premature birth. Head injuries or illnesses which affect the brain, such as meningitis, suffered by the child during the first few months of their lives can also be factors.
Cerebral Palsy through medical negligence
Only a very small number of children found to have cerebral palsy will have that disability as a result of the negligent management of their mother's ante-natal treatment, the mishandling of labour or negligent neonatal care, but it does happen. Families who believe negligence may be the cause should consider discussing their concerns with solicitors who specialise in this field of law. A good example is law firm Leigh Day who specialise in cerebral palsy claims or you can contact The Law Society for a list of solicitors.
Support Cerebral Palsy
Support is widely available for both children and parents affected by cerebral palsy, which allows them to live independent and fulfilling lives despite their condition. Occupational therapy is designed to boost a child's self-esteem and create ways for them to live independently and there are many resources to support your child's specific educational needs throughout their school life, enabling them to achieve and succeed throughout their lives. For further resources on the causes of cerebral palsy and the support available to families affected by cerebral palsy, visit Department for Work and Pensions.