To kick things off for National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, I would like to give you all a little history about how cerebral palsy got discovered.
Cerebral palsy was first described as an unknown disorder which was seen in children in the first years of their lives in 1860 by the English surgeon William Little. This medical condition caused stiff, spastic muscles in the children’s limbs. These children had difficulty grasping objects, crawling, and walking. This disorder was non- progressive too, which means it did not get better or worse as the kids grew older. The medical condition called spastic diplegia, was called Little’s Disease for many years and is just one of the types of classifications under the term, “cerebral palsy”.
Dr. Little thought that cerebral palsy was caused by a lack of oxygen at birth since many children that were affected by cerebral palsy had a difficult delivery or were born prematurely. Because of the fact that children with cerebral palsy had other problems such as visual disturbances, seizures, and mental retardation, another thought came to light. In 1897, the well known psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud thought that the disorder might be caused earlier in life in the brain’s development while in the womb. Cerebral palsy was still considered to be caused by birth complications most of the time until the 1890’s, when scientists analyzed data from a government study of more than 35,000 births. The results were that 10% of the cases were due to birth complications. Most of the cases did not have any known cause.
Risk factors have now been identified. Certain conditions that are known to cause cerebral palsy such as rubella and jaundice, can be easily prevented and treated. Therapists can assist with physical, psychological, and behavioral therapies to help with movement and speech, as well as helping to better develop social and emotional aspects. Surgery, braces, and medications can treat nerve and muscle coordination, help treat medical problems associated with it, and prevent or correct medical deformities.