Cerebral palsy is the most common disorder in children that affects movement and motor control. In spite of this, there is still much to be learned about CP, how it develops, and the best treatments. Physicians and pediatricians now have updated screening and guidelines based on the latest research.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine recently released new guidelines to help pediatricians and other physicians provide better care for children and families. The report details several areas of screening, early detection, and management.
The report emphasizes the importance of early screening for CP in order to provide children with interventions as soon as possible. The earlier treatments are applied, while the child’s brain is still capable of changing, the better the outcome.
The guidelines suggest that pediatricians and specialists working with infants should stay current on signs and risk factors for CP. Even for children without known risk factors, pediatricians should provide developmental screenings at 9, 18, and 30 months.
A Complete Medical Care Team
Cerebral palsy is a complicated condition with multiple associated symptoms and conditions. Along with a primary care pediatrician, a child with CP should have a team of appropriate specialists to provide all needed treatments. The team should be family- and patient-centered.
The primary care physician is responsible for providing the family with all the necessary resources. These include specialist referrals, social and educational services, family support groups, and financial resources.
CP can cause or increase the risk for many different health conditions. Primary care pediatricians must be knowledgeable about these and screen their CP patients for them. Potential associated conditions for CP include epilepsy, respiratory disorders, insomnia, nutritional deficits, gastrointestinal symptoms, cognitive impairment, language delays, chronic pain, and mental and behavioral health difficulties.
The recent report outlines disparities in the prevalence of CP. Black children and children born to families of lower socioeconomic status are at a higher risk of having CP than others. Pediatricians and other physicians must be aware of the high-risk groups so they can screen children appropriately.
Social and Emotional Health
While CP is largely a motor condition, it affects a child’s social and mental health as well. Physicians must be aware of this and provide resources. They can encourage families to get their children involved in community and social activities. They can also help families source adaptive equipment and recreational opportunities.
Transitioning to Adulthood
Much of the focus on managing cerebral palsy is on children, but CP never goes away. It is a lifelong condition. Transitioning to adulthood can be difficult for anyone, but it is especially complex for children with complex medical needs.
The recent report advises pediatricians and parents should begin planning the child’s transition to adult medical care around the ages of 12 to 14.
Cerebral palsy is common but still not always treated effectively or efficiently. When physicians take the time to learn more about the condition, and when parents advocate for better care, children benefit. This report is an important step toward getting children with CP better outcomes.