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What is Cerebral Palsy?

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is a general term for a number of neurological conditions affecting the brain & nervous system, which can impact upon a child's movement & co-ordination.

Around 1 in every 400 children in the UK is affected, and there is currently no cure – although a range of treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms to aid a child's ability to live an independent and happy life. The symptoms vary greatly from child to child, and can include epilepsy, learning difficulties, visual and hearing impairment and delayed growth. Cerebral palsy is not progressive, and therefore will not worsen over time, but the stresses on the body caused by the symptoms of the condition can cause problems later on in life.

What is the Cause of Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain, which usually occurs before, during or soon after birth. This can be due to an infection in early pregnancy, a
child with cerebral palsy
difficult or premature birth or abnormal brain development. More often than not, there is no single reason which causes cerebral palsy, but in some cases the negligence of hospital staff or doctors during pregnancy, labour, birth or after-care can be a factor. Failure to detect foetal distress, oxygen deprivation, hypoglycaemia or some other problem, or the failure to act immediately to treat these issues can result in cerebral palsy. You may be entitled to compensation if your child develops cerebral palsy as a result of medical negligence so if you think someone was at fault, it's worth checking out what your options are.

How to Detect Cerebral Palsy in Young Children

The signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy are not always visible at birth, except in a few severe cases, but will begin to appear during the first three to five years of a child's life as their brain begins to develop. The most common early sign is delay in reaching key milestones such as sitting, crawling or walking. Children with cerebral palsy may also have difficulty grasping objects or swallowing, and may show signs of fatigue, hearing impairment or being in pain.

If you are concerned about the development of your child, and suspect that they are exhibiting signs of cerebral palsy, consult your GP. Unfortunately, no single test or screen will confirm cerebral palsy, but medical professionals will likely observe and test your child over the first few years of his or her life in order to determine the cause and reach an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan. They will also be able to give you advice on supporting your child during this time.

April 2013

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