Ataxic cerebral palsy is the rarest form of the condition and is caused by damage sustained to the cerebellum either due to injury or when the brain is malformed. The cerebellum is responsible for fine motor functions which include the use of smaller muscles to maintain posture and balance and to perform more precise movements. Those suffering from this condition find what we consider simple and menial tasks to be extremely difficult and require ongoing assistance and therapy in order to make adjustments which may allow them to achieve independence.
Symptoms of Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Balance and coordination play the greatest roles when determining whether a child is suffering from ataxia because of the relationship between the cerebellum and the primary functions linked to it. When assessing a child’s symptoms prior to reaching a diagnosis, the following factors are considered when determining whether ataxia is present.
- The child’s posture— we require very small movements of smaller muscle groups to maintain posture and rarely notice them in our normal actions, but ataxia affects the ability of the brain to control these muscles. The result is the inability to maintain posture and balance.
- Fine motor skills— while gross motor skills are defined as the ability of large muscle groups to work in tandem with one another, fine motor skills reflect the ability to perform precise and coordinated movements. Those suffering from ataxia may tremor or shake when trying to do something as simple as pick up a pencil or button a shirt. Their imprecision may make them appear clumsy or imbalanced.
- Wide gait when walking— the inability to balance properly causes those with ataxic cerebral palsy to increase the width of their stance while standing and walking in order to compensate. They will find it extremely difficult to walk on uneven surfaces, on an incline or decline or over any ground that has variations in texture or height.
- Tremors and spasms— ataxia causes disruptions in the way the brain communicates with muscles and will cause movements to appear shaky. This is more prevalent when performing actions that require more precision. One of the common signs of this condition is when a child tries to reach for an object and overreaches, exceeding the distance required to pick it up. Repetitive actions are also extremely difficult for those with ataxia such as typing, writing or clapping.
- Altered speech— ataxia that affects oral motor function usually results in more breathy speech and children with this impediment may find themselves stuttering or slurring their words as well as struggling between syllables.
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing— similar to other forms of cerebral palsy, ataxic cerebral palsy may affect the ability to chew or swallow properly and this can cause secondary conditions as a result.
- Vision problems— ataxia may make it difficult for sufferers to focus their vision because of the inability to perform the precise muscle movements that allow us to scan our field of vision and maintain focus. In the same manner that someone with ataxia may overreach when trying to pick up an object, their eyes tend to move too far in one direction when attempting to look at something and they are required to compensate in order to catch up.
Psychological and Emotional Effects of Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Children with this form of cerebral palsy tend to become pariahs and the victims of childhood bullying because their symptoms make them appear clumsy and unstable. It is not uncommon for children suffering from cerebral palsy to experience depression, behavior disorders and mental illness as a result of being viewed differently by others. Ataxia symptoms are more visually noticeable and attract the forms of negative attention that contribute to these disorders and those suffering from ataxia need a strong support system and regular reassurance to combat the emotional trauma that they suffer.
Care and Therapy for Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Children with ataxia need regular physical therapy in order to learn how to overcome their inability to maintain posture and balance and because they are prone to falling easily, they often require assistance with mobility and balance. They may also require regular speech therapy in order to learn how to overcome their oral motor impairment. Additionally, they may require behavioral therapy and counseling in order to address the impact of psychological or emotional trauma that they endure throughout their lives.
Having a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy is a life changing event and it can be difficult to accept and embrace a life with cerebral palsy. The good news is that many children who suffer from cerebral palsy are able to grow into independent and happy adults with the right care and a lot of love.
This care does not come cheap, however, and the burdensome costs associated with caring for a child with cerebral palsy should not ruin your family’s financial health. The Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help determine whether medical negligence was involved in your child’s cerebral palsy and how best to secure the compensation you will need to be able to provide quality care throughout his or her lifetime.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our birth injury attorneys and we will not only review the details of your case, but help set you up with additional resources you will need to ensure that your child has access to the care he or she deserves. Should we be unable to collect compensation on your behalf, these resources and our services will be free of charge.