Are you getting that gut-wrenching feeling while observing your toddler that something is just not right? When you compare the growth of your toddler with other toddlers within the same age group of 2 to 3 years, do you feel he/she is not growing like the others? All babies grow at a different rate. Some catch the slow coach to normal growth and development, and a few board the express trains. Thus, it is difficult to categorize each baby in what is called 'normal' growth.
It may so happen, your best friend's daughter starts walking at the age of 9 months, and your baby is yet to take his first step to independence at 18 months. However, if you find your motherly instincts hitting at you that something, somewhere needs attention, then you probably are right. Cerebral palsy is a condition where the signs become more and more apparent as the child grows. Also, not all children display the same kind of cerebral palsy symptoms.
Cerebral palsy is a disorder related to the movements, posture, and muscle tone of the body. It occurs due to an injury during birth or abnormal development of the immature brain. In most of the cases, the disorder occurs even before the baby is born. In infants, the signs are usually seen when the baby is about 2 to 3 years of age. The toddler exhibits impaired movements with amplified rigidity or reflexes of the trunk or limbs. One may even observe an abnormal posture, unsteady gaits, as well as abnormal movements. There are four main types of this condition in children.
It has been found that over 70% of the children are diagnosed with this type. The signs include muscle spasms and stiffness that cause impairment in limb movement. This condition may cause either hemiplegia, paraplegia, quadriplegia, or diplegia in different children.
The signs in infants include abnormal movements. These abnormal movements include jerking, twisting, slow, uncontrolled movements, as well as writhing movements. These movements may disappear when the child sleeps and increase if the child is emotionally disturbed. This type affects about 20% of the children.
This is one of the very rare forms. The signs include weakness, uncoordinated movements, balancing problems, etc. The child shows difficulty with his fine or rapid movements and walks with a wide-based gait. It affects about 10% of the children affected with this disorder.
As the name suggests, children affected by this type exhibit signs that are seen in more than one condition. The most common mixed ones are a combination of spasticity and athetoid movements.
Symptoms in Children
The indications in babies become apparent within the first 3 years of the infant's life. One will observe that the infant is slow in achieving his/her growth and development milestones. The infant may crawl, walk, or speak very late. The muscle tone of the infant, that is, the ability to contract and relax as and when needed may show some problems. This means, the infant may show hypotonia or hypertonia. In case of hypotonia, there is decrease in muscle tone, making the child look limp.
Infants with hypertonia may have increase in the muscle tone that makes them look more stiff. In some cases, the infant shows signs of hypotonia when they are about 3 months old. As time progresses, they begin to develop hypertonia. A few children are affected on just one side of the body. This gives them a lopsided or unusual posture.
The spastic type signs in infants include stiffness of one side of the body. Most of the infants have stiffness in arms or hands, and some may also show rigidity in legs. Children with spastic hemiplegia develop scoliosis or abnormal curvature of the spine. Although their intelligence is not affected by this condition, they tend to have problems with their speech. A few children also experience epileptic seizures. In case of spastic diplegia, the child has difficultly walking as the muscles in their legs develop rigidity. They need help of leg braces or crutches to walk. These children have normal intelligence as well as communication skills.
The most severe form is the spastic quadriplegia. The child's brain has suffered from extensive damage, and this causes stiffness of all limbs. They neck is unable to hold the head, as the muscles are very loose. They have problems speaking and have learning difficulties. They also suffer from frequent epileptic seizures.
Signs of the ataxic type affect the balance and the depth of perception. This means the children cannot balance themselves and have difficulty in judging the position of objects relative to their position. They have a clumsy gait and uncoordinated movements. They are unable to perform tasks, like tying a shoe lace or writing. When they try to reach out to hold an object, the hands tremor a lot. The children show no abnormality in their intelligence as well as communication skills.
Signs of the athetoid category include increase as well as decrease in muscle tone. The children may make random body movements. They have problems controlling their posture as well as speech. This is because, they cannot control their tongue and vocal cords. They also show problems while eating and drool a lot. These children too have no problems with their intelligence levels.
How to Spot the Symptoms?
If one is not sure about the abnormal growth and development in their child, they need to understand the different signs in infants. These signs will help one spot the presence of this disorder in children and seek early intervention.
- The child is unable or has difficulty to control the head movements after the age of 2 months.
- The child tends to drag the body when crawling.
- The child needs help from parents or others to sit, after 10 months of age.
- The child has not begun to crawl or stand without support after 1 year of age.
- The child shows abnormal muscle tone, like hypotonia or hypertonia.
- The child has an unusual posture as the muscles are impaired on one side of the body.
- There is a limited range of motion in joints in children.
If one suspects their child has this disorder, it is best to get them evaluated by a pediatrician. The treatment is mostly long-term. It includes treatment of muscle and bone disorders, neurological disorders, occupational therapist, psychologists, special education teachers who help the child learn everyday activities, etc. One may also require physical therapy. A social worker is also involved, as they help the parents plan the different treatment care required for the child.
These were some facts about cerebral palsy. The signs become more evident as the child grows. If one suspects that medical error is the cause of their child's condition, they should speak to an experienced attorney. If medical error is proven, one may be able to get some compensation for their child's condition.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.