Special Focus: Cerebral Palsy

The following post was written by Keely O'Dell, the pediatric physical therapist who works with our team. We are so excited to have her share here!

Before I get started, I have to admit something…

Full disclosure, I absolutely have an enormous gaping soft spot in my heart for kids with cerebral palsy. I absolutely love them.  Adore them. Speaking generalities of course, I find kiddos with CP to be resilient, precocious, hilarious… just down-right awesome kids.  Its as if they have had to be creative in finding ways to overcome their movement challenges—and thus they use huge grins, charming glances, and charismatic personalities to make things happen for them.

Now that I've got that off my chest,  let me tell you some fundamental information about  cerebral palsy:

At the most basic level, cerebral palsy refers to damage or abnormalities in the developing brain that lead to difficulties with coordination and movement.  Breaking down the term, Cerebral refers to the brain and—Palsy refers to limitations in movement. It is hard for children with cerbral palsy to move their body is smooth coordinated ways. Being born prematurely increases a child’s risk of cerebral palsy.

Cerebral Palsy is permanent but not progressive.  The damage to the brain can not be repaired nor will it get worse.  However, it is important to realize that as the child gets older, their needs will change.

Cerebral Palsy has many faces.  In fact, the term CP alone tells you very little about how involved a child is. There are some children who only have difficulty moving their legs (diplegia) while others have involvement in their arms, legs and even mouth (quadriplegia).  Another type of CP, called hemiplegia, refers to motor involvement on one side of the body. Some children my have very mild symptoms, barely visible and causing few challenges to the child.  Others will have more severe presentation of symptoms and have limited purposeful movement in the affected body parts. 

But there are some consistent symptoms. Increased muscle tone (hypertonia) is a common symptom that many children with CP face—this makes their muscles very tense, even at rest.  It is hard for them to move in coordinated ways because of their muscle tone.

Management is the key.  We want to help these kids to be as functional as possible... and pain free. Starting early and continuing to provide support as they grow is very important. All the interventions below are ways that families and medical professionals can help children with CP be independent and reach their full potential!

 Physical and occupational therapists are a great place to start.  These professionals can provide activities to your family to help your child get stronger and more flexible. Often they oversee the equipment needs that will be described as well.  Children may need braces,  assistive devices like a walker or crutches to help them walk, or a wheelchair. We want to work to find a way for them to move themselves whenever possible—there are some pretty amazing things we can do so kids can drive their own electric wheelchair. Muscle tone may also need to be managed medically with medications like botox or baclofen.  And sometimes children even need surgery to lengthen their muscles. 

Kenny is an awesome boy with mild hemiplegic CP currently available for adoption. He is so sweet!!

Let me know if you want to learn more about Kenny!!! Or, if you have any questions or comments about adopting children with cerebral palsy, don’t hesitate to contact me: keely.superkids@gmail.com

Here are some great links to learn more: