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 about the future. Questions commonly asked by family members are:
At Buchanan Firm, 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 protects your family’s rights to seek reimbursement for resulting harm and losses, including medical and care expenses. Our attorneys and on-staff medical team have extensive experience in cerebral palsy and other birth injury matters and help ease the stress of getting answers, enrolling your child in special programs for cerebral palsy, and finding solutions.
This article summarizes cerebral palsy and identifies resources and programs that may be available to your family.
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 rather from injury to or abnormality in parts of the brain that control 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 the brain injury, your child and family may be entitled to reimbursement for the harms and losses.
A definitive 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 motor skills, look for characteristic symptoms, and review the medical history. CT (computer tomography) scans and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans reveal the abnormalities in the brain. Lab tests rule out other biochemical disorders that might be causing the motor system disturbance. 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.
The cause of CP is brain injury 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 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 comprising of a primary care doctor, social worker, nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, and other medical specialists (e.g., neurologist, rehabilitation physician, pulmonologist, and gastroenterologist). Common treatments include:
Complementary and alternative 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 the lives of individuals with CP.
Because the causes and severity of CP vary, prognosis is difficult. Some improve with therapies and treatment, while others remain the same. Outcomes vary. Individuals with CP should be provided with many opportunities, such as regular school attendance, to be fully included in society and progress toward independence. With treatment and positive encouragement, many grow up to hold jobs, marry, and live independently as adults.
There are resources and programs that provide information and opportunities to advance independence and productivity. They provide excellent information about condition, medical treatment, alternative treatment, and support networks. Helpful organizations include:
Besides national organizations, the 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 Michigan resources.
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 the Department of Disability and Human Health. Helpful resources include:
Public assistance programs offer assistance in nutrition, funding, and support groups. The UCP advocates networking and family outreach. Popular CP online support groups include:
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, webcasts 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/children. 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 more 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 may have 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 Firm team of experienced birth injury attorneys and healthcare professionals. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation and are delighted to answer your questions.