Awareness Color: Green
Awareness Month: March
Awareness Day: March 20
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills (the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way). CP is usually caused by brain damage that occurs before or during a child's birth, or during the first 3 to 5 years of a child's life.
The primary effect of cerebral palsy is impairment of muscle tone, gross and fine motor functions, balance, control, reflexes, and posture. Oral motor dysfunction, such as swallowing and feeding difficulties, speech impairment, and poor muscle tone in the face, can also indicate cerebral palsy. Associative conditions, such as sensory impairment, seizures, and learning disabilities that are not a result of the same brain injury, occur frequently with cerebral palsy. When present, these associative conditions may contribute to a clinical diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
The most common early sign of cerebral palsy is developmental delay. Delay in reaching key growth milestones, such as rolling over, sitting, crawling and walking are cause for concern. Practitioners will also look for signs such as abnormal muscle tone, unusual posture, persistent infant reflexes, and early development of hand preference.
Many signs and symptoms are not readily visible at birth, except in some severe cases, and may appear within the first three to five years of life as the brain and child develop.
If the delivery was traumatic, or if significant risk factors were encountered during pregnancy or birth, doctors may suspect cerebral palsy immediately and observe the child carefully. In moderate to mild cases of cerebral palsy, parents are often first to notice if the child doesn’t appear to be developing on schedule. If parents do begin to suspect cerebral palsy, they will likely want to consult their physician and ask about testing to begin ruling out or confirming cerebral palsy or other conditions.
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