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Approximately 8,000 babies in the United States are diagnosed with CP (cerebral palsy) each year. What exactly is CP you might ask? In this article I will address CP, what it is, how it’s diagnosed, how it’s treated and recommended assistive equipment for cognitive function and communication. I will introduce you to an assistive device known as a communication board which will help your child learn and communicate with others.
What is cerebral palsy (CP)?
Cerebral palsy is a disorder of posture and movement (difficulty in controlling the muscles) due to damage or injury to the brain. This brain damage can happen before, during or after birth. The area of the brain that has been injured determines the type of neuromuscular (affecting the nerves and muscle) disability.
Five types of CP
There are 5 classifications of CP and I will list them followed by a brief explanation.
1. Dyskinetic CP also known as Athetoid CP: This accounts for approximately 20% of cases of CP. It is characterized by abnormal involuntary movement and may involve all the extremities as well as the face and neck. The movements increase with stress and anxiety.
2. Spastic CP: This accounts for approximately 50% of cases of CP. It is characterized by excessive tone in the voluntary muscles, hypertonic (rigid) muscles, exaggeration of deep tendon reflexes and contractures (shortening and hardening of muscles, tendons, or other tissue, often leading to deformity and rigidity of joints). In other words, exaggerated reflexes, floppy or rigid limbs, and involuntary motions.
3. Ataxic CP: This type of CP is characterized by a loss of coordination, loss of equilibrium (balance) and inability to control movement.
4. Rigid CP: This type of CP is relatively rare in children. It is characterized by rigidity in all muscles – flexors and extensors. In a child with tremors, the tremors are apparent at both rest and during movement.
5. Mixed CP: Those diagnosed with mixed CP have damage to the motor control centers in several parts of their brain.
Warning signs of CP
Identifying infants at risk for cerebral palsy includes looking for these warning signs.
- Poor head control after 3 months of age.
- Stiff or rigid arms or legs.
- Pushing away or arching back.
- Floppy or limp body posture.
- Cannot sit up without support by 8 months.
- Uses only one side of body, or only the arms to crawl.
- Speech and swallowing impairment – gagging or choking when fed.
- Persistence of extrusion reflex – thrust tongue forward after 6 months of age – usually disappears by 3-4 months of age.
- Picture of spasticity – scissoring (legs crossed, toes pointed), fists clenched, forearm flexed, upper arm pressed against wall of chest, head extended and back arched.
How is CP diagnosed?
Cerebral palsy is diagnosed by your doctor using EEG, CT or MRI along with blood tests and a thorough neurologic examination. The EEG (electroencephalogram) is a test used to evaluate the electrical activity in the brain. The EEG results allow doctors to quickly assess whether there are abnormal patterns. Any irregularities may be a sign of seizures or other brain disorders. The computed tomography (CT or CAT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans allow your doctor to see bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body.
Persistent primitive reflexes (newborn reflexes), abnormal muscle tone and posture along with abnormal motor development are seen in a child with cerebral palsy. The goal of managing the child with CP is early recognition and intervention to maximize the child’s abilities.
Associated disabilities of CP
Approximately half of children with cerebral palsy have some degree of developmental delay and other disabilities. Epilepsy or seizure disorder is also among the problems associated with CP. Other than epilepsy, learning problems, poor attention span, hyperactivity, hearing or visual loss and emotional problems may also be seen. I believe that many of these emotional problems may be because of frustration in the inability to communicate his or her needs or wants.
Therapeutic management of CP
Cerebral palsy often is not diagnosed before the child is 2 years old. A multidisciplinary health care team approach is necessary to meet the many needs of the child with CP. This team includes the child and family, a pediatrician, neurologist, orthopedic surgeon, nurse, speech and hearing therapist, social worker, occupational therapist, physical therapist and educators.
All of these health care specialists work together with their treatments, therapies and medications to maximize the child’s quality of life and comfort. Of the many therapies a child with CP will receive, a communication device is an essential part of the plan of care. This device will not only be used in school, but will be part of the child’s daily life. He will not only learn how to communicate but can also play games for entertainment too. He will absolutely love this!
Speech and communication
An important part of recognizing CP in a child is paying attention to developmental milestones. Delay in reaching the milestones is one of the key indicators of cerebral palsy. School and community nurses are in the best position to work with families and children with CP. Many of these children will need both learning and physical adaptations as they enter school.
For the most part, children with CP are educated in the regular school program with assistive devices, such as the communication boards or computers. The communication board is a tool that the child will use for speech and communication.
The Amazon Fire Tablet for kids is another great option that you can use for your child. I invite you to check out my post. Click here for the Amazon Fire Tablet to read more.
GoTalk 9-Plus with Overlay Software CD
The GoTalk 9-Plus with Overlay Software CD is a communication board that is very easy to use with high sound quality and is lightweight yet very durable. This device is referred to as an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) aid and is used by many who have speech and language challenges forming longer, more complete thoughts.
This communication tool has a measurement of 9” x 12” x 1-1/8” and requires 2 “AA” batteries which are included.
It has a 45 message capacity which has 9 keys times 5 recording levels. This also has 3 “core” messages that remain constant on all levels.
Ideal for beginner users
The GoTalk 9-Plus with Overlay Software CD is a communication device that a child’s therapist and teachers will be using as a speech and communication aid for the child with CP. They will also be working with parents to show them how it is used and to continue working with their children with it for consistency and reinforcement.
This device comes with overlay software CD which is used for custom templates to suit the needs of the child. You can learn more about it here and purchase if you desire.
My final thoughts and recommendations
If you have a child who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, then I recommend you check out the GoTalk 9-Plus with Overlay Software CD communication board for your child. Through Amazon, it comes at a slightly lower price compared to other outlets. It is a middle-of-the-road communication device which means it is neither the cheapest nor is it the most expensive. It has many features and enough storage to handle all communication needs. I have placed another link below for your convenience.
Purchase your GoTalk 9-Plus here!
Questions or comments?
Please leave me your questions or comments in the comment section below and I will get back to you in a timely manner.
Always looking for the best for our babies,