FAQs about cerebral palsy

How will cerebral palsy affect my child’s quality of life?

A life of joy and fulfilment means being surrounded by supportive family and friends, being engaged in life-enhancing interests and activities, and being safe and secure. A quality life includes economic security, personal safety, health and mental well-being, and freedom with independence. For individuals with cerebral palsy, quality of life is defined in the same manner. Studies confirm that children with cerebral palsy often report a quality of life on par with that reported by children without disability.

Is there a cure for cerebral palsy?

There is no cure for cerebral palsy; the damage to the brain is permanent. The brain, however, can adapt, and therapy can influence how the brain develops, creating alternative pathways, to make the best possible use of the nervous system remaining. Everyone’s brain has some possibility for adaption and learning but we know that younger brains are the most adaptable.

Is cerebral palsy a progressive condition?

The damage to the brain is not progressive, but your child’s difficulties may change as they grow and mature. Limited movement can result in contractures (shortening) of muscles and deformities of joints/bones. Growth can also make movement more difficult. This means for some children certain functional activities may become more difficult, such as your child walking or using their hands.

Can you tell from scans of the brain how a child will be affected?

Some scans can tell you where in the brain damage has occurred and this information can provide some indication of potential difficulties. It is not possible to predict the exact impact of cerebral palsy from the scan. The presentation of cerebral palsy is complex and dependant on other factors such as the environment and experiences.

Does having cerebral palsy lead to other complications?

As cerebral palsy involves damage to the brain it can affect many areas of function. For some children problems may occur either as part of cerebral palsy or secondary to the condition. This will depend on the extent and location of damage in the brain. These difficulties can be with the child’s digestive system, for example, reflux or constipation, or, the urinary system for example bladder infections. Immobility can lead to pressure damage to the skin and damage to the musculo-skeletal system (contractures and dislocations). Muscle stiffness and immobility can also impact on a child’s breathing and respiratory system. Some children have epilepsy and others difficulty with sleep, eating and drinking or communication and others with their sensory system. Pain is the issue that most affects the quality of life in children who have cerebral palsy. Please remember that these difficulties do not affect every child.

Is cerebral palsy life-limiting?

Cerebral palsy is not life-limiting as the initial damage to the brain doesn’t change. However, some of the associated problems that some children have or can develop, such as severe epilepsy, severe feeding issues or severe skeletal deformities can lead to a shortened life expectancy. This is only in a minority of children.

How can therapy help my child?

Therapy is focused on helping your child participate fully in life despite difficulties with their body’s functional abilities. This may involve addressing difficulties with the body’s structures, such as tight or weak muscles but will also include teaching different ways of doing activities or changing the environment and/or providing specialist equipment that makes a task easier. Specialist therapy can help you and your child to manage the challenges that cerebral palsy may present.

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