If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, you probably have a lot of questions.
What information do you need from your child’s doctors?
1. What types of damage are associated with cerebral palsy?
While most cases of cerebral palsy do not require immediate treatment, some children may need to start treatment right away to avoid muscle and joint damage.
2. How will my child develop?
It may be difficult to determine exactly how serious a case of cerebral palsy is until your child is older, but your doctor can give you an idea of what to expect. Some children with cerebral palsy will have delayed physical and mental development. Children with severe cases may never learn to walk or talk. Ask about what to expect so you can prepare and so you can keep an eye out for unusual developments.
3. What care will be necessary going forward?
Will your child need physical therapy? What about medications? You’ll need a complete list of recommended treatments and a list of therapists or other specialists that can provide the care your child needs.
Some children with cerebral palsy need surgery to loosen and lengthen muscles and tendons, repair spinal deformities, or correct vision problems. Ask your doctor if your child is likely to need surgery. You may also ask for a list of qualified surgeons so you can choose the one that’s best for your child.
Children with cerebral palsy may need orthotic devices such as splints or braces to improve mobility. Some children may need wheelchairs, walkers, or scooters. Talk to your doctor about what devices your child may need and where you can get them.
You may need special equipment in your home to care for your child. Ask your doctor if you’ll need special beds, toilets, ramps, or other items to accommodate your child.
4. What is my child’s long-term outlook?
Will your child be able to live independently? Will physical therapy or other treatment be necessary on an ongoing basis? The sooner you get a sense of your child’s long-term health, the sooner you can start to plan for the future.
5. What caused my child’s cerebral palsy?
It is not always possible to identify the cause of cerebral palsy. Finding a cause where possible can be useful for a number of reasons. The cause may be a genetic mutation or environmental toxin and you may want to know whether any other children you have would be at risk. The cause may be medical malpractice, in which case you may want to sue your medical care providers for compensation to help cover the medical expenses and other costs associated with the injury.
6. What support resources are available?
Raising a child is hard under any circumstances. Raising a child with health problems is even harder. Your doctor can put you in touch with local communities of parents of children with cerebral palsy or local support organizations that can help you manage the costs and difficulties of raising a child with cerebral palsy. You can also check out a list of support resources here.
There Are No Stupid Questions
When the health of your child is at stake, you can’t ask too many questions. Don’t be embarrassed or nervous to ask your doctor questions or to ask for clarification of anything you don’t understand. Your doctor is there to help you and your child, so take advantage of her expertise.