When a child suffers a brain injury during childbirth or brain malformation while it is under development, a neurological condition known as cerebral palsy can result. This condition primarily affects body movements and muscle coordination. The injury or malformation that leads to cerebral palsy can occur bore birth, during birth, or immediately after birth. Children who suffer from cerebral palsy often have difficulty with muscle control, coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture, and balance. They may also face difficulties with their fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and oral motor functioning. For many parents suspecting their child may suffer from this condition, obtaining a diagnosis can be a long and stressful process.
Why Early Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy Is Important
Obtaining a diagnosis of cerebral palsy for your child is very important. Physicians agree that the earlier a child is diagnosed, the more likely it is that the child will be able to maximize his or her potential. Unfortunately, the diagnosis process for this condition can be lengthy. This is because the brain is not fully developed until between ages of three and five. In addition, there is no single test that can definitively diagnose cerebral palsy. Doctors therefore need to rule out other conditions in order to prevent a misdiagnosis.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, diagnosing cerebral palsy early can have many positive effects. These effects include allowing the child to receive early interventions that can help him or her:
- Master everyday tasks
- Increase mobility
- Improve overall quality of life
In addition, an early diagnosis can sometimes relieve some of the anxiety that parents experience by giving them a definitive answer to their child’s condition and allowing for a protocol of what can be done to help the child develop.
9 Tips While Waiting for a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
Since the process of obtaining a diagnosis of cerebral palsy is unfortunately often a long one, it is important to do what you can during that time to benefit your child. The following are nine helpful tips:
- Your first step when seeking a cerebral palsy diagnosis is to select a doctor who has experience and credentials in diagnosing cerebral palsy. Be sure to select a physician with a background working with cerebral palsy patients.
- Communication with your doctor is essential to obtaining a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Carefully review the risk factors for the disease and make note of any factors that apply to your child. Be certain to discuss these concerns with your doctor.
- Similar to identifying risk factors, it is also important to identify the signs and symptoms that your child is showing for cerebral palsy. Review these signs carefully and make a list of such signs that you have noticed. Be sure to let your doctor know about these signs and symptoms.
- Educating yourself about the process for diagnosing cerebral palsy can also go a long way towards helping you feel more in control over what is happening to your family. Learn the steps that are involved, the tests that are likely to be used, and the evaluations that will be performed. It is also important to understand the general time frame for obtaining a proper diagnosis of cerebral palsy so that you can set your expectations accordingly.
- Even before obtaining your official cerebral palsy diagnosis, it may not be too early to begin treatment and therapy. Children who are developmentally delayed may be able to begin treatment or therapy, even while still in the midst of the diagnosis process, for cerebral palsy.
- Ensure that your physician is up to speed on the most current guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics for diagnosing cerebral palsy. These guidelines are available online and can be printed and shared with your doctor if necessary.
- Some children may be eligible for early intervention services. Contact your local early intervention specialist to determine whether you may be able to take advantage of these programs. Your doctor’s office will likely have the contact information for you if you are having trouble locating it on your own.
- As early as possible in this process, it is important to gain a solid understanding of your health insurance coverage and options. Failing to do so could lead to an unpleasant surprise later.
- If you are unsure of the diagnosis that you ultimately receive, it is important to seek a second opinion. In some cases, a third opinion may even be advisable.
If your child is awaiting a diagnosis or has already been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, you may have a legal claim against one of your doctors or the hospital where you gave birth if their negligence lead to the injury or malformation that ultimately caused the cerebral palsy to develop. We strongly encourage you to reach out today for a free consultation at 713-425-6445.