Cerebral palsy is a group of chronic movement or posture disorders. “Cerebral” refers to the brain and “Palsy” refers to a physical disorder, such as a lack of muscle control. Cerebral palsy is not caused by problems with the muscles or nerves, but rather with the brain’s ability to adequately control the body.
Every year about 10,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with cerebral palsy. A diagnosis is gut-wrenching news for a young family, and rouses questions about the disorder and worries for the future. Cerebral palsy can be caused by injury during birth, with symptoms or ailments appearing in the first few years of life.
At Buchanan & Buchanan, we understand how daunting the news can be for a family. Determining the cause and investigating possible legal action can overwhelm. However, if medical negligence caused your child cerebral palsy, Michigan law gives your family rights to seek reimbursement for the harms and losses, including medical and care expenses. Our attorneys and on-staff medical team have extensive experience in cerebral palsy and other birth injuries and help ease the stress of getting answers, enrolling your child in special programs for cerebral palsy, and finding solutions.
The term cerebral palsy (CP) refers to a neurological disorder that appears in infancy or early childhood and permanently impairs the child’s ability to move, maintain balance, and posture. “Cerebral” means brain, and “palsy” refers to weakness or problems using muscles. Though CP distorts muscle movement, the cause is not a disorder in the muscles or nerves but from injury to or abnormality in parts of the brain controlling muscle movement.
To preserve legal remedies when CP is suspected or diagnosed, a family should promptly contact experienced medical negligence attorneys to investigate the cause and protect your rights before they are barred forever. If medical malpractice caused brain injury, your child and family may be entitled to reimbursement for the harms and losses.
A definitive medical test for CP does not yet exist. Diagnosis is by medical history and physical examination. Diagnosis is difficult, and there are different types. 43% of CP cases are diagnosed in the first few months of life and 70% are diagnosed in the first year. In more mild cases, a diagnosis might not be made until age 3 or 4. To diagnose CP, doctors test baby motor skills, look for characteristic symptoms, and review the medical history. CT (computer tomography) scans and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans reveal injuries in the brain. Lab tests rule out other biochemical disorders that might be causing the motor problems. Early diagnosis is important for the well-being of the children and family. If your child is not meeting movement milestones or might have CP, contact your pediatrician and share the concerns. We will help you get answers.
The cause of CP is injury to the brain or malformation when developing, and can occur before, during, or after birth. It may be difficult in some children to determine cause, so it is important for parents to promptly and carefully evaluate circumstances leading to their child’s condition. Common causes of cerebral palsy include:
Determining cause may make your child eligible for medical assistance and care. If you believe your child suffered an injury at birth that caused cerebral palsy, promptly seek help from an experienced birth-injury legal team. The attorneys and medical advisors of Buchanan & Buchanan can determine if medical negligence was the cause.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy. However treatments maximize function and physical strength, prevent complications, and improve quality of life. It is important for parents to educate themselves about available treatments, and strive to enhance a CP child’s achievements and progress toward independence.
Medical treatment often requires a team of a pediatrician, social worker, nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, and other medical specialists (e.g., neurologist, rehabilitation physician, pulmonologist, and gastroenterologist). Common treatments include:
Other therapies include:
Traditional medicine and alternative therapies are helpful, but families must encourage and promote a positive view of life with CP. Promoting patience and positive encouragement greatly improves lives of loved ones with CP.
There are resources and programs that provide information and opportunities to advance independence and productivity. They provide excellent information about condition, medical treatment, and support networks. Helpful organizations include:
Besides national organizations, United Cerebral Palsy of Michigan (UCP) is an excellent in-state organization. UCP provides guidance on local resources and services, and promotes networking with other Michigan families.
For more information on health topics, including, diagnosis, therapy, medical dictionary, clinical research, disease management, and statistics, the UCP suggests a reliable website, Medline Plus, from the National Institute of Health: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/cerebralpalsy.html
The UCP also provides guidance by Michigan cities about physicians and local offices. http://ucpmichigan.org/resources/physicians-and-offices
Access to Health Care
UCP educates families about rights and access to health care. It provides information about medical services available for individuals with disabilities, and encourages involvement in public policy for improving health care access. Specialized health insurance also may be available through state agencies, such as the Michigan Child Health Insurance Program, Medicaid offices, and Department of Disability and Human Health. Helpful resources include:
Public Assistance Programs and Support Groups
Public assistance programs offer assistance in nutrition, funding, and support groups. The UCP advocates networking and family outreach. Popular CP online support groups include:
Housing and Employment Assistance
To promote independence for people with CP, several programs offer safe, accessible, and affordable housing. Other programs offer employment opportunities. Helpful resources on housing and employment include:
The UCP promotes the Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation (CPIRF). The CPIRF is a “not for profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to funding research and educational activities directly relevant to discovering the cause, cure, and evidence based care for those with cerebral palsy and related developmental disabilities.” CPIRF offers access to research fact sheets, web casts of scientific workshops, current and past research projects, and discussion forums regarding treatments for CP. The CPIRF is an excellent resource to learn more about CP and what is being done to improve the quality of life for those with CP, with the end goal of finding a cure.
The UCP promotes community inclusion through recreational activities and adaptive sports. They provide resources by activity and location in Michigan. Activities include biking, dancing, fitness, horseback riding, canoeing/kayaking, music activities, swimming, tennis, etc. For more resources available on recreational activities available for children and adults with CP in Michigan, contact these organizations:
Educational opportunities for children with CP can be complicated. Resources help families determine the best learning environment for their child. Much depends on how CP has affected cognitive abilities and the resources available in the local community. Most are eligible for public school education programs. Those with cognitive disabilities may take special education classes or attend a private school for children with disabilities. Available resources and options include:
Besides the support and resources we’ve discussed, it is important to immediately seek legal help if medical negligence caused your child’s cerebral palsy. Often cerebral palsy occurs because of a birth injury caused by a doctor, hospital, or nurse error. If you suspect medical negligence played a role in your child’s CP, please contact the Buchanan & Buchanan team of experienced birth injury attorneys and healthcare professionals. We offer a free, no obligation consultation and are delighted to answer your questions.