Cerebral palsy is one of the most common health conditions Handicap International sees in babies and young children around the world. The Center for Disease Control estimates that about 1 in every 323 children has cerebral palsy.
This congenital disorder usually results from brain damage that occurs before or at birth or within the first few years of a child’s life. Symptoms vary but may include poor muscle tone, stiff muscles, uncontrolled movements, poor motor skills, and sensory problems. About a third of cases involve cognitive difficulties or epilepsy.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy. However, the condition can be prevented through improved pre- and post-natal care. Where the disorder cannot be prevented, early diagnosis is key to ensuring better outcomes for children.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, Handicap International runs a mother and child health program to help prevent and diagnose impairments in babies. Staff at local clinics provides mothers with pre- and post-natal care and educate them about good health practices. After birth, staff screen infants and older babies for signs of impairments and prescribe follow up care if a problem is noted.
Once diagnosed with cerebral palsy, rehabilitation is key to ensuring these children can maximize their capabilities and have the chance to participate fully as other children. Every day, Handicap International rehabilitation teams work with children and adults with cerebral palsy in more than 25 countries. Physical therapy helps with movement by strengthening muscles, reducing stiffness, or improving balance. Assistive devices such as wheelchairs and braces may be provided. Physical and occupational therapists also often include play and other mental stimulation in a child’s rehabilitation program to help improve their cognition.
We work with kids like four-year-old Amrit Neupane of Nepal (pictured above), who received no care for his condition until his parents discovered a Handicap International supported rehabilitation clinic located near their home. For the first two years of his life, Amrit spent his days laying in bed, hardly interacting with his family members. After receiving leg braces and regular physical therapy from Handicap International staff, Amrit is now up and walking and playing with his sisters. Eventually he will be able to attend school.