With resources, children with cerebral palsy can succeed
Maybe you've had concerns for your child's well-being since the day of his or her birth because your labor was mismanaged, delivery was delayed, too much Pitocin was used or your baby was in fetal distress.
Maybe you suspected there was a problem when you noticed your infant didn't reach for you with two hands or seemed excessively stiff or floppy. He or she just didn't move like other babies.
Even if you thought there might be problems, an actual diagnosis of cerebral palsy is still devastating. It's a diagnosis that thousands of parents hear every year, as almost 10,000 infants and 1,200 preschoolers nationwide are diagnosed with some form of CP.
In most cases, the damage to the fetus occurred in utero and the exact cause is unclear. In some cases, it is the result of a preventable birth injury.
Cerebral palsy can affect both physical movement and cognitive ability, sometimes severely. When a young child's physical abilities are very limited, it can appear that the child's mental capability is also limited, but that may not be the case. With appropriate therapy, educational services and access to assistive devices, your child may make surprising advances.
Take the case of Brieana Jones ... a recent graduate from Life Pacific College in San Dimas, California. Ms. Jones cannot walk or stand on her own, has limited use of her hands and cannot turn a page or hold a pencil. But that did not prevent her from graduating cum laude, at age 26, with a bachelor's degree in biblical studies and a minor in youth ministry.
Ms. Jones uses an electric wheelchair. With a reflector under one eye, head movements allow her to cast light onto a light-sensitive keypad that connects to her computer. An accomplished public speaker, she has undertaken missionary trips to Africa, Israel and London, using a voice modulator to assist with speaking.
Ms. Jones credits her school and friends for helping her achieve her goal. They provided transportation, scanned reading materials into her computer and took lecture notes for her. Those same friends credit her with inspiring them to stay on track in school.
Providing for your child's educational needs will require ingenuity, tenacity and financial resources.
- United Cerebral Palsy, Texas chapter, is a great place to begin your search for resources. Its mission is to "advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities." You will find its website at 4MyChild.
- The Houston chapter of Easter Seals (eastersealshouston.org) can provide assistive technology, case management, infant and child therapy programs, day camps and much more.
- The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services has information about Early Childhood Intervention programs (dars.state.tx.us). For some children, those services may begin soon after birth; for other children with disabilities, before their third birthday.
Making the money last is a concern of many parents who achieved a financial settlement when medical malpractice was the cause of their child's cerebral palsy. Estate planning tools can be used to protect your child's assets and ensure that money is available over the course of his or her life. A structured settlement may be negotiated, allowing a payout over a number of years. A special-needs trust is an option with several benefits: It provides money for medical or educational needs while also, in some cases, allowing the child (or adult) to qualify for medical assistance.
Houston cerebral palsy attorneys that handle medical malpractice cases are prepared to advise parents on these and other financial options to protect their child's future.