Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Ms. Clanton's 5th Grade Class from Concord, NC. Ms. Clanton's 5th Grade Class Wonders, “what is cerebral palsy?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ms. Clanton's 5th Grade Class!
Do you know what it means to take something for granted? It means that you're so used to something being as it is that you simply don't give it any thought. For example, most of us probably take it for granted that we can use our brains to tell our bodies to move in whatever way we want them to move.
While most of us may take it for granted that our brains will simply communicate with the other parts of our bodies whenever we need them to do so, this is not a luxury shared by the millions of people around the world who have a brain disorder called cerebral palsy (CP). CP affects muscle tone and the ability to coordinate the body's movements.
There are three different types of CP: spastic, athetoid, and ataxic. People with spastic CP, the most common type, have trouble relaxing their muscles, which are often stiff. People with athetoid CP have trouble controlling their muscles and may experience sudden movements in their arms and legs. People with ataxic CP experience problems with coordination and balance, causing many of their movements to be shaky.
People with CP might not be able to move, eat, or even talk the way others can. The effects of CP vary from mild to debilitating, depending upon exactly which parts of the brain are affected and which parts of the body are controlled by affected areas. Experts estimate over 500,000 people in the United States have a form of CP.
Someone with a very mild case of CP might experience unsteady movement that requires crutches or a brace. Others may need a wheelchair, because they're unable to move much at all on their own. Still others may have problems with speech or hearing, as well as learning disabilities or behavioral problems.
Scientists don't know exactly how CP develops, except that it's the result of damage to the brain before a baby is born or during its first few months or years of life. Once diagnosed, CP does not get worse over time. However, its effects on the body can change as a person ages and develops. For example, as children with CP grow, problems with particular muscles can get worse as those muscles get larger.
Unfortunately, there is not currently a cure for cerebral palsy. Those who suffer from some form of CP must do their best to manage its effects on their bodies. Over the years, scientists have developed a wide variety of therapies, treatments, and devices to help those with CP live their lives to the fullest.
Managing the effects of CP can involve all sorts of doctors, surgeons, and therapists. Some people may take medicines, such as muscle relaxants, while others may need surgeries to straighten their arms or legs. Still others may require hearing aids, speech therapy, or tutors to help with learning disabilities.