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Honoring People with Cerebral Palsy

  • Date: 2012/08/22 (Rev. 2013/11/15)
  • Wendy Taormina-Weiss
  • Synopsis : People with cerebral palsy are members of your community whether they are your neighbors or your co-workers.

Main Document

The term, cerebral palsy is one that is used to refer to one of many different forms of neurological disorders that appear while a person is in their infancy or early childhood. Cerebral palsy affects a person's body movement and muscle coordination. Despite affecting a person's muscle movement, it is not caused by issues with someone's nerves or muscles.

A general term describing a group of chronic non-progressive neurological symptoms which cause impaired control of movement and which are evident in the first few years of life, usually before age 3. The disorders are induced by damage or faulty development of the motor areas in the brain, disrupting the patient's ability to control movement and posture.

Cerebral palsy is caused by a condition in portions of a person's brain that control their muscle movements. Most of the children who experience cerebral palsy are born with it, even though it might not be discovered until months or even years later. Early signs of cerebral palsy commonly appear before a child has reached three years old. The most common signs include stiff or tight muscles, a lack of muscle coordination, walking on the toes, walking with one leg or foot dragging, muscle tone that is too floppy or stiff, and a crouched or scissored gait. A small population of children with cerebral palsy experience the disability due to brain damage during the first few months or years of their life. The brain damage may have been caused by viral encephalitis, bacterial meningitis, or perhaps a head injury.

The signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary greatly. Coordination and movement issues related to cerebral palsy might include the following:

  • Drooling
  • A wide gait
  • A crouched gait
  • Difficulty with eating
  • Difficulty with speaking
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • A lack of muscle coordination
  • Walking on the person's toes
  • Slow and writhing movements
  • Delays in speech development
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Regular reflexes and stiff muscles
  • Involuntary movements or tremors
  • Variations in the person's muscle tone
  • Exaggerated reflexes and stiff muscles
  • A scissors-like gait with the person's knees crossing
  • Delays in achieving motor skills such as sitting alone or crawling
  • Favoring one side of the person's body such as reaching with one hand or dragging one leg

People with cerebral palsy may experience disability that is limited to one limb or side of their body, or it may affect their entire body. Brain injury that causes cerebral palsy does not change over time and the symptoms usually do not become worse as the person ages. The shortening of the person's muscles, as well as muscle rigidity, may become worse if the person does not receive adequate treatment. People with cerebral palsy may also experience neurological issues such as:

  • Seizures
  • Dental issues
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Hearing and vision difficulties
  • Touch or pain perception difficulties

Unfortunately, medical science has yet to find a cure for cerebral palsy, although treatment often times improves a person's capabilities. The earlier treatment starts, the better the chance children with cerebral palsy have of learning new ways to accomplish tasks they face and dealing with other issues. Treatment may involve medications to control seizure activity, speech therapy, physical and occupational therapy, medications to alleviate pain and relax muscle spasms, surgery to correct anatomy or release tight muscles, wheelchairs, braces, rolling walkers, or other devices, or communication aids.

Cerebral palsy does not always result in profound disability. One person with severe cerebral palsy may be unable to walk and require lifelong care, while another person who experiences mild cerebral palsy may only be somewhat awkward and need no form of assistance. Supportive medications, treatments, and surgery can help many people to improve their motor skills and ability to communicate with others.

Support and Honor of People with Cerebral Palsy

People with Disabilities as a population have one overwhelming and large goal, inclusion in as many aspects of society as possible. Within the population of People with Disabilities in America there are some who experience forms of disabilities that are more challenging. People with cerebral palsy are among those in society who often have the most difficulties with life experiences many people take for granted such as transportation, health care, housing, education, or simply getting out and having some fun.

The perspective held by many in society is that these issues belong in the realm of the government, or perhaps organizations or the person's family members and friends. The definition of, "Society," includes:

Society:

  • The state of being with other people
  • A body of individuals living as members of a community
  • The sum of social relationships among groups of humans
  • The attitude of taking an active part in events, especially in a social context
  • The body of human beings generally, associated or viewed as members of a community
  • A structured community of people bound together by similar traditions, institutions, or nationality

What does this definition mean to you as a person? The fact that we are all members of American society means that we are all involved in the same community, whether it is our local sense of community, or a national sense of community. It means that every single person in our community is a person of value to the community.

People who experience cerebral palsy are members of your community. The experience of cerebral palsy does not in any way change the fact that they are your neighbors, your co-workers, and more. People with cerebral palsy might surprise you with the things they have the ability to share with you, as well as the things they know and have the abilities to do.

Simply being there for your neighbor with cerebral palsy when they need transportation, want to share some fun time with you, or need assistance with something else is the best way to support, honor, and include them in society. Recognizing and supporting the organizations that are in place to support people with cerebral palsy is a great way to honor them. Telling your legislator that supports such as health care, education, transportation, and housing are vital to their well-being in our society is a wonderful way to participate in honoring people with cerebral palsy.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. As a member of society and your community, it is important to include people with cerebral palsy in the events that take place for everyone. Honor your neighbors who experience cerebral palsy with the same respect you would like to receive; friendships are made in this way, and society grows stronger because of it.





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