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Why Early Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy Is Crucial

Cerebral palsy is a birth injury that many Florida parents may not become aware that their child has suffered for months or possibly even years, depending on the severity of the condition. Mild cases of CP may not be obvious until a child is walking and talking, while others may become obvious in infancy.

However, early diagnosis of Cerebral palsy can be crucial to getting children the special care, therapy and educational and rehabilitation services they may require. Proper diagnosis involves developmental screening, monitoring and medical evaluations.

Developmental screenings and monitoring can detect some movement and motor delays at as young as 9 months. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that these screenings begin at that age during your child's regular doctor visit.

The AAP suggests that the tests be repeated at 18 months and again at somewhere between 24 and 30 months. Most movement delays are noticeable by the 30-month mark. These tests include not just observing and evaluating the child, but asking questions of the parents about their observation of the child's development.

The symptoms of CP vary from one individual to the next. Most commonly, however, children with the condition display some level of impaired motor functions, muscle tone and coordination. Some may also experience speech issues, seizures, vision or hearing problems and/or intellectual disability.

When a child displays symptoms like these, the pediatrician should do a developmental evaluation to determine the cause, which may or may not be CP. A variety of tests is available to help make a proper diagnosis, including magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography scans and even genetic testing. The pediatrician may refer the parents to a physician who specializes in child development and/or neurological disorders to do this testing and evaluation.

Obviously, any concerns that parents have about their child's development or other medical issues should be immediately brought to the pediatrician's attention. Florida's Children's Medical Services also offers resources, including the Early Steps program, for eligible children with special needs.

If a child is diagnosed with CP that you believe may have been caused by a birth injury resulting from some type of medical negligence or error, it may be worthwhile to explore your legal options to see if you can seek compensation. The costs of medical care, therapy and other needs that your child may have throughout his or her life should not be underestimated.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Screening and Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy," accessed May. 25, 2015

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