March 25 is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, a government-sanctioned observance that will remind us we’ve come a long way toward understanding cerebral palsy but we still have work to do.
I have seen major improvements in treating cerebral palsy in my lifetime — an excellent development.
To help mark awareness day, I compiled a list of 15 points to consider when you are with someone with cerebral palsy or want to tell others about it. These are facts and suggestions to make both your lives easier.
15 Facts about Cerebral Palsy
1. Cerebral palsy is not a sickness or disease. No one can catch it, or reverse cerebral palsy. It is a brain injury. The injury is usually caused by lack of oxygen to the brain before or after birth.
2. No two people have cerebral palsy the same way. Limitations associated with the condition vary by brain injury location and intensity of the injury.
3. People can walk and still have CP. Not everyone needs to use a wheelchair to be mobile. Some can walk, or use canes, walkers or crutches.
4. Mental challenges and cerebral palsy are different disabilities. Some people with cerebral palsy can have a mental challenge, but in most cases, they have average to above-average IQ.
5. Some people will also experience vision, hearing and attention difficulties. But again, everyone is different. Sometimes a person with cerebral palsy has excellent hearing, vision and attention.
6. A speech impediment is common in those with cerebral palsy. The impediment may make them difficult to understand, or they may be unable to speak at all. Fortunately, technology and innovations have given people with speech impediments a way to communicate. Just be patient, understanding and listen.
7. Cerebral palsy affects the way the muscles move and respond. Think of a computer that isn’t working like it should. You hit the right button, but sometimes it just doesn’t respond. A person with cerebral palsy can send a message to the brain, but the muscles do not always get the correct message.
8. A child with cerebral palsy is still a child. They all need love, guidance, support, play, creativity, and rules. They don’t need pity or extra-special treatment just because they require assistance.
9. Physical, occupational, speech and aquatic therapies are excellent for people with cerebral palsy. They help strengthen muscles and train them to do better at what a person with cerebral palsy asks them to do.
10. Some people who have cerebral palsy can drive. Adaptations to vehicles makes this possible. But sometimes muscle spasticity and abnormal movements can make driving difficult.
11. People who have cerebral palsy usually want to work, but employers are often reluctant to hire them. People with cerebral palsy can have occupations, make money and provide for their families.
12. Women and men with cerebral palsy can have children, and women can have normal pregnancies. Cerebral palsy isn’t genetic, so it doesn’t affect an unborn baby.
13. The life expectancy of someone with cerebral palsy is normal.
14. There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but medications and surgeries may ease the stiffness and involuntary movements of muscles associated with the condition.
15. People who have cerebral palsy are unique individuals with varying interests, gifts, personalities, opinions, relationships and lives. They are like anyone else, but have a few more challenges than most.
On March 25, don’t forget to wear green to show your support for cerebral palsy. Educate others about the disability as well.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.