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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Life with Cerebral Palsy

While the life expectancy of people who suffer from Cerebral Palsy (CP) is comparable to the population at large, certainly their quality of life is worse. There are five primary chronic challenges that cerebral palsy people face which are premature signs of aging, walking and swallowing problems, post-impairment syndromes, mental health issues and workplace challenges.

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Premature Aging

The first issue is premature aging which can result in arthritis such as osteoarthritis and degenerative arthritis due to joint compression, abnormal joint surfaces and friction, overuse syndrome, and abnormal forces from muscle spasticity and contractures. All of this results in increased pain and the need for additional therapies and medications. Walking becomes more difficult for all aging people, but it is especially pronounced in CP sufferers. Stiff muscles, joint pain, and problems with equilibrium due to an altered center of gravity can result in the increased incidence of falls and subsequent limb breakage. This leads to more treatments, surgeries, and medications. The long-term consequences of surgeries and medications all increase the aging process in CP. Dental problems present earlier in cerebral palsy patients which further impacts nutrition and well-being.

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Walking and Swallowing Challenges

Walking and swallowing difficulties are the second group of challenges. Mobility aids are more common as the person with CP ages. These can help with the deterioration process, for instance, using crutches means using muscles that may not be strong enough, or using wheelchairs that tend to make leg muscles weaker from disuse; which also increases the chance of blood clots from being sedentary. Bladder problems such as urinary retention can occur as a result of the inability to ambulate. This makes CP sufferers prone to urinary tract infections.

Difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia, includes symptoms such as coughing during eating or right after eating or drinking, liquids leaking out or food getting stuck, recurrent pneumonia or chest congestion from aspiration, weight loss, dehydration, malnutrition, and embarrassment, especially in social settings.

Post Impairment Syndrome

Post-impairment Syndrome causes weakness due to abnormal muscle function, bone deformities, arthritis from overuse, increased muscle pain, increased fatigue, and repetitive strain injuries, all of which require long-term occupational therapy, medications, and possible surgeries.

Workplace Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, makes sure that the workplace is user-friendly for the person with CP. Adjusted work schedules, allowing frequent breaks, and having their work area near bathrooms, parking lots, and break rooms, are reasonable accommodations for a healthy workplace. Likewise, service dogs, spell checkers, personal care attendants, telephone assisting devices, and writing and typing aids are also reasonable allowances under the law.

Mental Health

People with CP are often faced with difficult social situations and are subject to teasing and bullying. As a result, many shy away from social situations and suffer from anxiety and depression frequently. Depressive symptoms include excessive sleep or sleep difficulties, under eating or overeating, lost interest in activities once enjoyed, and talk about death. Anxiety can show up as physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, feeling dizzy or shaky, or being jumpy. Excessive worry and avoiding people are other symptoms of anxiety. According to one study by Dr. Gregory Liptak, people with cerebral palsy are less likely to socially interact with others, be employed, live independently, or get married.