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Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that affects muscle coordination and body movement. Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for several symptoms because, unlike Down syndrome, it does not have a singular cause. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage occurring either during pregnancy, during delivery, or shortly after delivery. There are several different types of cerebral palsy, each classified by the way in which they affect the individual.
Because there are so many different factors as to the cause of cerebral palsy, each case is as individual as the person affected. The symptoms and severity of cerebral palsy can range from mild, barely noticeable effects, to severe, in which the individual has extremely poor motor skills and mental retardation.
Mild cerebral palsy indicates that the severity of the brain damage suffered was only significant enough to cause slight impairment. The symptoms of mild cerebral palsy are subtler and not easily recognizable. In cases of mild cerebral palsy, symptoms are not as disruptive, and usually not apparent to the naked eye. Sometimes parents and doctors are less likely to realize that a child even has mild cerebral palsy. The parents usually detect mild cerebral palsy as children may begin to have trouble reaching more advanced developmental milestones because of physical complications.
Because mild cerebral palsy is seldom detectable, early intervention is difficult. However with earlier detections of mild cerebral palsy, corrective treatment can prove to be highly effective. In the instance of toe walking, for example, a plastic boot can help to train the motor skills and alleviate the problem. Sometimes mild cerebral palsy can affect the arms in subtle ways. A child with mild cerebral palsy may have trouble lifting heavier objects with a certain hand. However, the same child with mild cerebral palsy may have no difficulty writing with a pencil. The same muscles are used for both tasks, but the brain has trouble sending the message for one of them.
Mild cerebral palsy can be more severe than other cases of cerebral palsy, in the sense that some won’t get the benefit of treatment. Some children with mild cerebral palsy are affected by physical limitations, but their intelligence is not affected at all. Because they are not educationally deficient they will not qualify to receive occupational or physical therapy through their respective school.
A mild cerebral palsy diagnosis with physical limitations can be difficult when the child seems normal in every other way. While the child manages to stay on top of educational tasks, other coordination type tasks, such as gym class, give the child difficulties and can hurt self-esteem. It is important to remind a child with mild cerebral palsy that not everyone is coordinated and regardless, they can still function beyond expectations.