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Assessing Children with Cerebral Palsy

When assessing children with cerebral palsy, their character can be an important factor. As with most disabilities, it takes a strong individual to overcome the obstacles associated with their disability. Children with cerebral palsy may not be able to walk, talk, eat or play in the same ways as most other kids, but with the proper diagnosis by a team of healthcare professionals they can be helped to learn a life without complete family dependence. When assessing children with cerebral palsy, many factors must be taken into consideration. With cerebral palsy covering such a varying spectrum of conditions and degrees of severity, each case is as unique as the individual affected.

Assessing children with cerebral palsy can sometimes be difficult. Some people with cerebral palsy have trouble controlling their movement and facial expressions, but their mental abilities are not impaired. Some have higher than average intelligence while others have moderate or severe learning disabilities. Most diagnosed with cerebral palsy are of average intelligence, just like those without cerebral palsy. While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, assessing children with cerebral palsy can provide correct treatment from the early stages of diagnosis, and ease the effects of cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy covers a wide range of symptoms and before treatment may begins the proper diagnosis is necessary. In classifying the type of cerebral palsy that affects an individual, medical experts look at the type of motor impairment and its location when assessing children with cerebral palsy.

Overall, there are several generally recognized categories of impairment. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form and affects 70 to 80 percent of patients. Spastic cerebral palsy is best described as having muscles that are stiff and rigid and permanently contracted. Doctors can describe which type of spastic cerebral palsy a patient has based on the limbs affected. For example, diplegia is spastic cerebral palsy in both legs, while left hemi-paresis occurs on only the left side of the body.

Athetoid, or dyskinetic cerebral palsy, is mainly characterized by slow, uncontrolled, writhing movements. These abnormal movements usually affect the arms, hands, feet, and legs. Sometimes the muscles of the face and tongue can be affected as well, causing grimacing or drooling. The movements associated with athetoid cerebral palsy can sometimes increase during periods of emotional distress, however, they tend to disappear during sleep. It is also possible to have trouble controlling the muscles for speech, known as dysarthria. Athetoid cerebral palsy affects 10 to 20 percent of patients.

The most rare form, which affects only 5 to 10 percent of patients, is ataxic cerebral palsy. Ataxic cerebral palsy affects the sense of balance and depth perception. Besides poor coordination, patients usually walk with a wide-based gait, and have trouble executing quick or precise movements, such as writing or buttoning a shirt.

It is not uncommon for individuals to have symptoms from multiple forms of cerebral palsy. Patients may have to undergo several different types of therapy in order to overcome obstacles brought on by multiple forms of cerebral palsy. A well-trained team of medical professionals is important for assessing cerebral palsy in children.

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