By Chris Yow
TRUSSVILLE — A little known fact in Alabama, among all the impairments facing children in the state, Cerebral Palsy is atop the list.
While not getting the attention others do, cerebral palsy remains a very prevalent part of our society. Wednesday, Oct. 7, is World Cerebral Palsy Day, and United Cerebral Palsy Birmingham wants to help bring attention to this crippling disease.
UCP Birmingham Executive Director Gary Edwards has a few theories on why cerebral palsy doesn’t get as much attention, but he said he would like to see awareness improve.
“I’m not sure why there’s not more coverage on it. There’s not one cause that a cure can be found for it, so maybe because it’s caused by so many different factors, it gets less attention,” Edwards said.
Cerebral Palsy is defined as a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination (spastic paralysis) and/or other disabilities, typically caused by damage to the brain before or at birth.There are up to 3 million cases in the United States per year.
“Simply put, cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the motor part of the brain to affect a person’s ability to walk or speak,” Edwards said.
There are four levels of cerebral palsy: mild, moderate, severe and no cerebral palsy.
Mild cases mean a person is able to move without assistance and daily activities are not limited. Moderate cerebral palsy means a person will need braces to guide their muscle development, medication to control spasm and possible adaptive technology to accomplish daily activities. Severe cases mean a child will require a wheelchair and will have significant challenges in accomplishing daily activities. No CP means the child has cerebral palsy signs, but the impairment was acquired after completion of brain development and is therefore classified under the incident that caused the cerebral palsy, such as traumatic brain injury or encephalopathy.
There are a number of types and forms of cerebral palsy, but all types and forms of the impairment are classified under one of the aforementioned levels.
Edwards said in most cases, although the disability is visible because it is a physical disability, it may or may not affect the person’s intellectual capability.
“People with CP can very very bright, but because it is visible, and the way they walk is different, people think they can’t do some things by themselves,” Edwards said.
The biggest and best thing any person can do for them is to simply include them in normal activities. Many people with cerebral palsy can do most any task a person without a disability can do, although that wasn’t always the consensus.
“It wasn’t that many years ago that someone with CP couldn’t go to normal classes in school.
Look past the disability and see the person. If you have questions, ask them. Be patient because speech may be hard to understand, but carry on a conversation. Just because they’re difficult to understand doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say,” Edwards said.
At UCP Birmingham, the center treats more than just cerebral palsy. There, the center has several types of therapy, physical, occupational and speech therapies are all available. There is an early learning and daycare center on site as well to help improve conditions for those children who are faced with the disability.
“Early attention is really the key. We have a daycare/early learning care. Children learning with disabilities like cerebral palsy should not be excluded, but included in all aspects of life,” Edwards said. “We continue their education and therapy throughout. We find employment opportunities for people with disabilities as well.”
One set of parents with a child battling cerebral palsy has taken to Facebook and Instagram to share their story. Caroline Chronicles is a Facebook and Instagram account showing a young 3-year-old girl and her daily activities as she works with school and friends and family.
Caroline lives in Hoover and her parents want others to know exactly how much fun and excitement their daughter has even with this impairment.
Her Facebook profile reads: “I’m a 3.5 year old Diva of Magnificent Proportions. I have triplegia cerebral palsy. I steal toothbrushes and climb on everything. This is my journey.”
The journey is long for some, and we can help make it better.