March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. This article explores some of the key aspects of cerebral palsy and what you can do if your child has cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a complex neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to move or maintain balance or posture. Cerebral means relating to the brain or cerebrum; palsy refers to complete or partial muscle paralysis, often accompanied by loss of sensation and uncontrollable body movements or tremors. It is the most common motor disability in children with an estimated 1 in 400 babies in the UK having a type of cerebral palsy.

Whilst some people’s cognitive abilities may remain intact, many also suffer intellectual disability, seizures, sensory losses, speech and language impairments or joint problems as well as struggling with movement and posture. When a child is diagnosed with CP, it affects the entire family.

Signs of Cerebral Palsy

The signs of CP vary greatly because there are many different types of and levels of disability. The main sign that a child might have CP is a delay reaching motor or movement milestones such as rolling over, sitting, standing or walking.

Following are some other signs of possible CP. It is important to note that some children without CP also might have some of these signs. If you notice any of these signs, you should talk to your child’s health care provider.

Infants younger than 6 months of age:

  • Cannot hold up their head when picked up from lying on their back
  • May feel stiff or floppy
  • When picked up, their legs get stiff or cross
  • When held, they may overextend their back and neck, constantly acting as though they are pushing away from you

Infants older than 6 months of age:

  • Cannot roll over
  • Cannot bring their hands to their mouth
  • Have a hard time bringing their hands together
  • Reach out with only one hand while holding the other in a fist

Infants older than 10 months of age:

  • Crawl in a lopsided way, pushing with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg
  • Scoot around on their buttocks or hop on their knees but do not crawl on all fours
  • Cannot stand even when holding onto support

Diagnosing CP at an early age is important to the well-being of children and their families.

There is no cure for CP, but treatment can improve the lives of those who have the condition. It is important to begin a treatment program as early as possible. Common treatments include:

• Physical and Occupational Therapy
• Speech and Language Therapy
• Provisions of Aids & equipment
• Surgery
• Medication

How can cerebral palsy develop?

The abnormal development of the brain or damage that leads to CP can happen before birth, during birth, within a month after birth, or during the first years of a child’s life, while the brain is still developing. CP related to abnormal development of the brain or damage that occurred before or during birth is called congenital CP. The majority of CP is congenital. A small percentage of CP is caused by abnormal development of the brain or damage that occurs more than 28 days after birth. This is called acquired CP, and usually is associated with an infection (such as meningitis) or head injury.

There are some unfortunate instances in which cerebral palsy results from medical negligence during pregnancy, childbirth or postnatal period.

Parents and/or guardians who have concerns regarding their child’s development or the circumstances surrounding their pregnancy/birth management have the right to pursue a claim for clinical negligence. A claim for medical negligence can be pursued if there is evidence of substandard care that directly contributed to the development of the condition. If a claim can be established, compensation will be secured for the child’s future to ensure that they have lifelong care and support in place together with access to rehabilitation, aids and equipment, and suitable accommodation where necessary.

How can we help?

It is important for concerned parents and/or guardians to consult clinical negligence solicitors with experience in cerebral palsy claims to assess whether this is a suitable option. If you have concerns about the care provided to your child at the time of their birth, please contact our Clinical Negligence Department for a free, no-obligation discussion. We will listen carefully to what you have to say and will advise you on the best course of action to take. You will not be under any obligation and your initial discussion with us will be completely free and confidential.

We have an experienced team of Clinical Negligence Solicitors led by Steve Webb and Hasina Choudhury. Steve is a Director and an accredited lawyer being a member of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel. Hasina is a Director and an accredited lawyer being a member of AvMA Specialist Clinical Negligence Panel, and the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel.

Contact one of our specialist team members today by calling 1206 574431 or by emailing info@tsplegal.com.