What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood worldwide. It is a neurological disorder affecting a person’s movement and posture and is caused by a non-progressive brain injury or malformation before, during, or after birth.
Our Neonatal Follow-up Program, along with four other universities, has partnered with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation to work together on diagnosing cerebral palsy in children at younger ages.
Early Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
In the first year of life, our brain grows rapidly and has more ability to adapt its function and create new connections. Diagnosing cerebral palsy earlier in life allows children to receive therapeutic interventions earlier.
These interventions can maximize their potential when brain plasticity is at its highest. This is called optimizing neuroplasticity.
How We Diagnose Cerebral Palsy Earlier
To diagnose cerebral palsy earlier, we use evidence-based tools. These include the general movements assessment and the Hammersmith Infant Neurological Exam.
When we combine these with your child’s history and neuroimaging of your child’s brain, we can diagnose cerebral palsy at younger ages. These assessments may start while your child is still in the newborn intensive care unit and continue at the neonatal follow-up program.
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Support After a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
A cerebral palsy diagnosis can be very overwhelming to parents and loved ones. Diagnosing cerebral palsy early provides opportunities for parents to get more education and support.
There are resources available that provide education and guidance on where to begin and how you can best help your child. Many families have found the cerebral palsy toolkit helpful in dealing with this condition.
The cerebral palsy toolkit is a book or manual that is written by parents for parents. There are many other great books for adults and children that can be valuable.