Today, March 25th, is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. The entire month of March is actually Cerebral Palsy Awareness MONTH. I wasn't even aware of this until recently! It should be easy for me to remember--I've always loved March (it's my birthday month), and now I have one more reason to be fond of it.
I had another short post I was going to write tonight (about Curtis and the process of getting his leg casted for his new brace), but then I stumbled on this great post over at one of my favorite blogs--Love That Max. I thought I'd do something similar, but I'll include a little more info about Curtis. And I'll try to keep it short! If you have the time, read her info, though--it's awesome. She has a great blog in general, so if you're a parent of a kid with special needs, I think she merits a follow on FB.
I think that, in general, people know very little about cerebral palsy. Most people are shocked when I tell them that Curtis has CP. I was shocked when I was told Curtis had CP. Learning more about it is a good thing. I try to explain it to people on the fly, but I don't do a very good job. I'm still learning a lot about it, too. What you read below will be much better info (said info gathered from various sources around the fabulous World Wide Web)...
- Cerebral Palsy (CP) refers to any number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and the muscle coordination necessary to maintain balance and posture.
- CP is not a disease and it's not genetic (can't be passed from parent to child).
- CP is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, which usually occurs during fetal development, before, during, or shortly after birth, or during infancy. Curtis' CP is the result of his brain malformations--cortical dysplasia and polymicrogyria. Both were present at birth. The CP wasn't diagnosed until several months after birth.
- 75% of people with CP also have one or more developmental disability, including epilepsy, intellecutal disability, autism, visual impairment, and/or blindness
- The CDC has released information indicating that CP is increasingly prevalent and that about 1 in 278 children have cerebral palsy (wow!) It is the most common motor disability in childhood.
- There is no cure for CP, but treatment often improves the capabilities of a child with CP (now you know why Curtis spends so much of his free time in therapy--and swimming, which has become a new sort of therapy for him).
- The symptoms of CP vary from person to person. A person with severe CP might need special equipment to walk or might not be able to walk at all. Those with more mild CP might be able to walk, but just need a little extra help (this is the category Curtis would fit in).
- There are different types of CP, and they are classified based on the type of movement disorder involved:
- Spastic CP: Most common type of CP (approx. 80% have this type). People with spastic CP have increased muscle tone. This means their muscles are stiff and, as a result, their movements can be awkward. It's usually further described by what part of the body is affected. Spastic diplegia: muscle stiffness mainly in the legs making it difficult to walk. Spastic hemiplegia: affecting only one side of the body--the arm is usually more affected than the leg. Curtis has Left-Sided Spastic Hemiplegia and both his arm and leg are affected, as well as some of the muscles in his face and mouth (hardly noticeable in his sweet face!). Spastic quadriplegia: most severe form of CP, it affects the legs, arms, trunk, and face.
- Dyskinetic CP: People with this CP have problems controlling the movement of their hands, arms, feet, and legs. Their muscle tone can change--varying from too tight to too loose.
- Ataxic CP: People with ataxic CP have problems with balance and coordination.
- Mixed CP: Some people have symptoms of more than one type of CP. The most common type of mixed CP is spastic-dyskinetic.
- Crazy, random new fact I learned today (and no wonder Curtis is always so tired...and why he still naps at almost 6 years old!)--people with CP use three to five times the amount of energy that people without CP do when they walk and move.
OK, I could go on and on. I promised I'd keep it short. I think I gave you your fill of cerebral palsy info for the day.
Before I had Curtis, the idea of cerebral palsy used to freak me out. When they first told me Curtis had CP, I was completely freaked out! But now, on CP Awareness Day, I don't feel afraid. I am more educated. I have Curtis here with me, showing me what can be achieved. I feel hopeful. Curtis has a lot he needs to work on (geez, don't we all?). I can tell you that we won't stop working. It's what we do. Because Curtis--he's worth working hard for...today and every day.