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3 things parents should know about cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is one of the most common disabilities affecting young children. It results from damage to the brain that affects a child’s ability to move and maintain posture and balance. Mistakes by your physician before, during or after birth can cause cerebral palsy in your child. 

Damage to the brain that causes motor disorder does not heal. Therefore, a child with cerebral palsy will have it for a lifetime. If you are a parent of a child with CP or suspect that your child might have it, here are some important things you need to know. 

1. Cerebral palsy can range in severity 

Symptoms of CP may be mild or severe. Some children have only mild motor deficits due to cerebral palsy. For example, more than half of all children with CP have the ability to walk independently. However, more severe symptoms may make ambulation more difficult. As a result, your child may need a mobility device, such as crutches, a walker or a wheelchair, to get around. 

2. Cerebral palsy can be either congenital or acquired

Most cases of cerebral palsy are congenital, meaning they are present from birth. The brain damage that causes congenital cerebral palsy may occur in the womb or during labor and delivery. Your doctor may make mistakes during delivery that cause brain damage resulting in cerebral palsy. 

Though not present from birth, acquired cerebral palsy occurs very soon thereafter, within 28 days. This can develop due to a head injury or brain infection. If your doctor fails to diagnose or treat such a condition quickly and effectively, the resulting brain damage may cause your baby to develop acquired CP. 

3. Babies show different signs of CP at different ages

As a parent of a newborn, you should be alert to signs that your child may have cerebral palsy. A 3-month-old baby with CP may go either floppy or stiff when picked up. Your child may scissor his or her legs or overextend the back and neck. At 6 months, a baby with cerebral palsy may fist one hand while reaching out with the other and miss developmental milestones, such as rolling over. 

By 10 months, a healthy baby should be crawling. If your baby has cerebral palsy, he or she may scoot around on the buttocks instead. If your baby does crawl, it may be in a lopsided fashion, dragging the hand and leg on one side of the body.