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Having a child born with cerebral palsy can be devastating, but it doesn’t have to mean that your child won’t have a quality life. The degree of disability that children with cerebral palsy experience can vary widely.
The complications your child will be living with will become clear during growth. What you know for certain right now is that your child will likely need more care than a child born without a disability.
Making a life care plan for your child is crucial. It is a detailed plan that covers everything your child will need to live a fulfilling life without limitations. It should include elements of care and education, a diagnosis, legal documents, financial documents and plans, and a full evaluation of your child’s abilities, complications, and special needs. 
This evaluation helps you provide the best care for your child and it should be ongoing, changing as your child grows and develops.
Evaluation Following Diagnosis
Diagnoses for cerebral palsy are not always made immediately after a child is born. Sometimes it takes months to realize that a child is showing signs of a developmental disability and for all the diagnostic criteria to be noted for a complete diagnosis. 
Doctors and specialists must look at several aspects of a child’s health, neurological function, motor development, and other factors to make the correct diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
Once that diagnosis is made, a life care plan should be started and it should include a full evaluation. Right after diagnosis, an evaluation is done to determine the extent of the disability, the type of cerebral palsy, any associated conditions, the types of limitations that the child faces, and many more things that will fully describe the child’s condition.
This initial evaluation is a crucial beginning for the life care plan. It sets the stage for actually making that plan and determining what special care a child needs. For instance, the evaluation may determine that the child is experiencing oral motor dysfunction. This will make it difficult for the child to eat and breathe and indicates that she may need special feeding care.
It also indicates that in the future she may have speech and language difficulties, which means that the life care plan should include therapy to address this issue as she gets to the age at which speech normally begins.
Elements of a Complete Cerebral Palsy Evaluation
There are many factors that must be investigated when evaluating a child that has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  No matter what age the child is at the time of the initial evaluation, there are certain aspects of her health that need to be evaluated. As she grows older, ongoing evaluations will become more specific and include such things as education and socialization.
Any child with cerebral palsy must be evaluated for mobility and neurological issues. Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition caused by brain damage, so typically the first evaluation done is related to the brain.
Imaging the brain and performing simple neurological tests can help a specialist determine the extent of the damage. Neurologists may also look for signs of seizures, a common complication of brain damage.
A mobility evaluation is a way to examine the extent of a child’s ability to move. This evaluation will look at a child’s muscle tone, coordination, reflexes, balance and posture, fine and gross motor function, oral motor function, and spastic movements. These will be reevaluated as a child grows and develops.
As a child gets older she needs to be reevaluated, for mobility and neurological function, but also for other possible disabilities that will not be important until she is older. For instance, educational evaluations will help discover any limitations in cognitive ability or the presence of learning disabilities, as well as any issues with socialization. As a child grows and develops independence, she will also be evaluated for her ability to perform the functions of daily living, such as hygiene, getting around, walking, and others.
Throughout her life, a child with cerebral palsy should be evaluated for any associated conditions. Cerebral palsy may co-exist with conditions like behavioral disorders, hearing and vision problems, skin conditions, nutritional deficits, communication issues, and many others. There are many possibilities for associated conditions, so this part of the evaluation is important and should be thorough.
The Importance of an Evaluation for Care
The life care plan evaluation is important for a child with cerebral palsy for several reasons, but perhaps the most important are for access to care. A child cannot be given the best care if her full needs, abilities, and limitations are not understood. For instance, if no one evaluates her mental health, she could be struggling alone with depression or anxiety, which if evaluated, could be treated.
A full and ongoing evaluation is a crucial part of the life care plan. For your child to have the best possible life with the fewest limitations, you must understand her needs. It is not enough to do this once. As a child grows her needs will change and develop and new limitations and disabilities may come to light. Continuous evaluation by experts is needed to keep up with her care.
The Legal Importance of a Cerebral Palsy Evaluation
The evaluation portion of a life care plan is also important from a legal standpoint. If you are seeking compensation for your child’s disability, you must understand her full set of limitations. This allows you to plan for the care she will need in the future and what it will cost in total. This will be an estimate, of course, but the most accurate estimate will come from a full evaluation.
In addition to your child’s neurological, motor, educational, social, and associated conditions evaluation, it is important to evaluate your child’s and your family’s circumstances as well. You must evaluate your access to health care and health insurance, your family’s income and expenses, your ability to transport your child to get care, your housing situation, and other such factors that will impact your child’s access to care.
All of these factors, from the original brain damage that caused your child’s disability to your family’s socioeconomic situation, are important to evaluate when developing a life care plan. As you and your birth injury lawyer work toward winning compensation, these evaluations will help you make a claim and make a strong case.
- Katz RT and Johnson CB. (2013, April 13). Life care planning for the child with cerebral palsy. - PubMed - NCBI. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23910487
- Screening and diagnosis of cerebral palsy. (2019, September 11). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/diagnosis.html
- Clinical examination of children with cerebral palsy. (2019, January). PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6394192/