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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and co-ordination, caused by a problem with the brain that occurs before, during or soon after birth.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy

The symptoms of cerebral palsy aren’t usually obvious just after a baby is born. They normally become noticeable during the first two or three years of a child’s life.

Symptoms can include:

  • delays in reaching development milestones – for example, not sitting by eight months or not walking by 18 months
  • seeming too stiff or too floppy
  • weak arms or legs
  • fidgety, jerky or clumsy movements
  • random, uncontrolled movements
  • walking on tip-toes
  • a range of other problems – such as swallowing difficulties, speaking problems, vision problems and learning disabilities

The severity of symptoms can vary significantly. Some people only have minor problems, while others may be severely disabled.

Causes of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy can occur if a baby’s brain doesn’t develop normally while in the womb, or is damaged during or soon after birth.

Causes of cerebral palsy include:

  • bleeding in the baby’s brain or reduced blood and oxygen supply to their brain
  • an infection caught by the mother during pregnancy
  • the brain temporarily not getting enough oxygen (asphyxiation) during a difficult birth
  • meningitis
  • a serious head injury

But in many cases, the exact cause isn’t clear. 

Treatments for cerebral palsy

There’s currently no cure for cerebral palsy, but treatments are available to help people with the condition be as active and independent as possible.

Treatments include:

  • physiotherapy – techniques such as exercise and stretching to help maintain physical ability and hopefully improve movement problems
  • speech therapy to help with speech and communication, and swallowing difficulties
  • occupational therapy – where a therapist identifies problems that you or your child have carrying out everyday tasks, and suggests ways to make these easier
  • medication for muscle stiffness and other difficulties
  • in some cases, surgery to treat movement or growth problems

A team of healthcare professionals will work with you to come up with a treatment plan that meets your or your child’s needs

Outlook for cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy affects each person differently and it may be very difficult to predict what the outlook will be for you or your child.

Generally speaking:

  • most children live into adult life and some can live for many decades
  • the condition may limit your child’s activities and independence, although many people go on to have full, independent lives
  • many children go to a mainstream school, but some may have special educational needs and benefit from attending a special school
  • the original problem with the brain doesn’t get worse over time, but the condition can put a lot of strain on the body and cause problems such as painful joints in later life
  • the daily challenges of living with cerebral palsy can be difficult to cope with, which can lead to problems such as depression in some people

Speak to your care team about the likely effects of cerebral palsy on you or your child. If you require a specialist pushchair, talk to one of our advisors about the options available and charity funding. Call our Helpline on 01670 458624

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Down’s Syndrome

Down’s syndrome, also known as Down syndrome, is a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and characteristic physical features.

Around 775 babies are born with the condition each year in England and Wales.

Many babies born with Down’s syndrome are diagnosed with the condition after birth and are likely to have:

  • reduced muscle tone leading to floppiness (hypotonia)
  • eyes that slant upwards and outwards
  • a small mouth with a protruding tongue
  • a flat back of the head
  • below-average weight and length at birth

Although children with Down’s syndrome share some common physical characteristics, they do not all look the same. A child with Down’s syndrome will look more like their mother, father or other family members than other children with the syndrome.

People with Down’s syndrome also vary in personality and ability. Everyone born with Down’s syndrome will have a degree of learning disability, but the level of disability will be different for each individual.

What causes Down’s syndrome?

Down’s syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21 in a baby’s cells.

In the vast majority of cases, this isn’t inherited and is simply the result of a one-off genetic mistake in the sperm or egg.

There is a small chance of having a child with Down’s syndrome with every pregnancy, but the likelihood increases with the age of the mother. For example, a woman who is 20 has about a 1 in 1,500 chance of having a baby with the condition, while a woman who is 40 has a 1 in 100 chance.

There is no evidence that anything done before or during pregnancy increases or decreases the chance of having a child with Down’s syndrome.

Life with Down’s syndrome

Although there is no “cure” for Down’s syndrome, there are ways to help children with the condition develop into healthy and fulfilled individuals who are able to achieve the level of independence right for them. This includes:

  • access to good healthcare, including a range of different specialists
  • early intervention programmes to provide support for children and parents
  • good parenting skills and an ordinary family life
  • education and support groups to provide information and help for parents, friends and families

Improved education and support has led to more opportunities for people with Down’s syndrome. These include being able to leave home, form new relationships, gain employment and lead largely independent lives.

However, it is important to remember each child is different and it is not possible to predict how individuals will develop.e

Associated health conditions

There are a number of disorders that are more common in people with Down’s syndrome. These include:

  • hearing and vision problems
  • heart disorders, such as congenital heart disease
  • thyroid problems, such as an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
  • recurrent infections, such as pneumonia

Delayed development

All children with Down’s syndrome have some degree of learning disability and delayed development, but this varies widely between individual children.

Children with the condition may be slower to learn skills such as:

  • reaching
  • sitting
  • standing
  • walking
  • talking

A child with Down’s syndrome will gain these skills eventually – it simply takes more time.

Around 1 in every 10 children also experience additional difficulties such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Our support

If you have a child with Down’s syndrome and they require a specialist pushchair, perhaps if they an older child and need a larger buggy or if they have challenging behaviour or no sense of danger and need this to keep them safe when out and about – please contact us as we may be able to help you.

Freedom for Kids Helpline: 01670 458624

Email: info@freedomforkids.co.uk