The signs that your child has a developmental or neurological disorder may not be immediately apparent, primarily because he or she is unable to communicate his or her symptoms. In addition, many neurological disorders have symptoms in common or may be associative conditions that accompany the diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
If you begin to notice that your child’s development seems to have fallen behind or he or she is struggling with menial tasks that other toddlers are able to perform, you should contact your pediatrician and begin the process of narrowing down the possible causes of your concerns and determining the exact cause of your child’s condition.
Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury during or following birth or a birth defect that affects the area of the brain responsible for motor function and the growth and development of muscles and bones. It is often accompanied by other conditions which exist independently of a cerebral palsy diagnosis or which are directly caused by the symptoms of cerebral palsy itself. Observing your child’s behavior and any abnormalities in the development of motor function is the first step in diagnosing the condition. The signs and symptoms to look for include the following.
- Abnormal muscle tone— cerebral palsy impairs the ability of the brain to communicate properly with muscles and joints. Muscles need to work in unison to perform routine and desired functions such as to stand up or lift an object. The muscles affected by developmental disorders or impairment become atrophied and the result is physical abnormalities in muscle tone such as the appearance of overly rigid muscles or abnormally loose or relaxed muscles that do not tense properly when activated. Muscle spasms may indicate problems with muscle tone as well.
- Poor coordination and motor control— the delayed development of muscles combined with the inability of the brain to properly control movement can result in the impairment of motor function and coordination. This can manifest itself in numerous ways such as in spastic movements— in which muscle tension or spasms impair movement— or dyskinesia which is displayed by slow and stressful movements that are uncontrollable. Another form of impairment called ataxia may affect finer motor functions that require coordination such as gripping a small object. This results in menial tasks such as writing, tying shoes and buttoning a shirt becoming difficult for children later in life.
- Impaired reflexes— irregular reflexes are often a sign of cerebral palsy because it exhibits the inability of the brain to coordinate the actions of muscles in unison when responding to some form of stimulus. When suspecting that a child has a developmental or neurological disorder, doctors instruct parents to look for specific forms of reflex impairment that signal the possibility of cerebral palsy. For example, if an infant is held upright and his or her foot touches an object or surface, it is common for the child’s leg to tense and flex in the first five months of life. When this reflex persists beyond five months, it can indicate motor impairment.
- Postural indicators— observing a baby’s posture can indicate the need for concern due to the effects that cerebral palsy and other developmental disorders have on muscles that support posture and balance. If your child’s posture is not symmetrical, it can indicate the need for further testing. Doctors typically recommend adjusting the position of the child and recording how he or she responds during the initial stage of diagnosis when parents are instructed to observe their children more closely.
- Balance— the same muscles responsible for posture have an impact on balance as well and diminished motor function exacerbates balancing issues. Children with cerebral palsy may require assistance walking due to the inability to balance and, in extreme cases, may be confined to the use of a wheelchair.
- Gross motor function impairment— gross motor function is defined as the ability of the body to use major muscle groups in fluid motions. Children with impaired gross motor function may have difficult with tasks such as crawling, walking, running or rising from a sitting to a standing position. One of the signs of cerebral palsy is the delay in the development of these skills or marked impairments in the ability to perform gross motor functions.
- Fine motor function impairment— actions such as writing, gripping onto an object or tying a shoe require fine motor skills. Cerebral palsy may impact a child’s ability to perform the smaller and more detailed movements required to perform these simpler tasks. When observing a child for signs of fine motor function impairment, the strength of his or her grip and ability to wrap his or her fingers around an object are considered.
- Oral motor function— the inability to form words or make certain sounds can be the result of impaired oral motor function as the brain struggles to communicate properly with muscles responsible for the movement of the mouth, throat and vocal chords. This can also result in excessive drooling and difficulty swallowing or breathing and could become dangerous if the child experiences these difficulties while eating or drinking. Oral motor function impairment can also lead to pneumonia and an increased chance of infections and other secondary conditions.
The diagnosis of a child with cerebral palsy is life changing and it can be difficult to accept and adjust to the reality of caring for a loved one with this devastating condition. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers strive to make this period of adjustment more bearable for people just like you by helping you learn the exact cause of your child’s injury and exploring ways of ensuring you will be able to provide the care that he or she deserves. Our access to doctors, medical resources, economists and other professionals whose experience and expertise can serve your family’s needs ensures that we are not only able to represent your legal needs but that we can assist you in transitioning to a life with a child who has cerebral palsy.
Contact us today for more information about cerebral palsy, your rights as a parent and how we can best represent your legal interests. If we are unable to recover compensation on your behalf, you will owe us nothing for our services.