October 6, is World Cerebral Palsy (CP) Day, a day where the world celebrates the achievements of those individuals who live with CP. CP is a developmental disability that affects children’s capacity to control their movements and posture.
In South Africa, it is estimated that for every 1 000 babies that are born in a specific year, about 10 babies will have CP. Children living with CP have weak muscles during their first few months of life and later these muscles stiffen. They can also have repetitive movement, shakiness, and problems with balance.
According to Dr Thembi Katangwe, a paediatric neurologist at Tygerberg Hospital and Stellenbosch University, CP occurs when there is an injury to the developing brain either during pregnancy, during birth or during the first few years of life, especially less than two years.
Katangwe says this injury causes problems with brain development in parts that are responsible for muscle movement in different parts of the body.
” Detecting early signs of CP in a child that has had brain injury is very important. Studies have shown that children that have been diagnosed with CP before the age of one year, have a better prognosis than those that are identified later. This is because the children who have been diagnosed early have the benefit of starting therapy early. As a result, these children may not have severe CP compared to children that have started their therapy later,” the Dr concluded.
CP can also be confirmed from as early as 6 months, therefore it is essential that children with suspected CP are assessed early so that they can start their therapy promptly.
Types of Cerebral Palsy:
- Pastic CP: These children have stiff and tight muscles. This stiffness results from the failure of messages from their brain that instruct their muscles on how to work smoothly
- Dyskinetic CP: These children have lots of involuntary movements, either twisting or writhing, that are often repetitive. This makes it challenging for these children to do normal things, like eating by themselves, picking up a toy or even talking.
- Ataxic CP: These children have shaky and unsteady movements. They struggle to balance. They may also have tremors.