Mobility problems are common in children with cerebral palsy but can range widely in nature and severity. Cerebral palsy affects muscle control, strength, and movement, but affects every person differently. This means two children with the same diagnosis can be affected in dramatically different ways. One of the mobility problems children with a cerebral palsy face could include a struggle with balance or gait. However, one child may be able to walk unsupported while another may not be able to walk at all.
In addition, cerebral palsy occurs in many forms, and each affects children in different ways. Some may have uncontrolled movements that make walking dangerous, while others have shaky tremors or stiff muscles that make it hard to walk unsupported.
Approximately Half of Children With CP Can Walk Independently
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 50 and 60 percent of children with cerebral palsy can walk on their own. About 10 percent walk with a hand-held mobility device.
Mobility impairments are likely in children with certain symptoms and complications. These can include:
- Spastic quadriplegia, meaning spastic cerebral palsy affects all four limbs
- Intellectual disability
- Epileptic seizures
- Vision impairments
Complications and co-occurring conditions can also play a role in limiting mobility in children with cerebral palsy. Hip and spine abnormalities are common, including scoliosis and hip displacement. This can make sitting, standing, and walking both painful and difficult.
In many cases, treatment can help these children gain some mobility. This may be because tremors or seizures are under control or because those with vision impairments gain confidence. Even limited mobility can help as children grow because the ability to stand and transfer to a wheelchair on their own eliminates the need for a parent to lift an older child, teenager, or adult, or the expense of a mechanical lift.
Treatment and Mobility Aids for Children With Cerebral Palsy
Many children benefit from increased mobility thanks to a combination of treatment for cerebral palsy and the use of mobility aids. Medications, physical therapy, and occupational therapy can help keep the muscles limber and give the child more control.
However, it is important to note that many children who can walk in a clinical setting, such as physical therapy, do not walk at home or school.
In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, there were 42.85 percent of children who walked without support and 26.98 percent who walked with support in a clinical setting. Only 21.87 percent of them were able to walk with or without support in their community.
Some factors that may impair a child’s mobility at home or school include:
- Willingness of parents and teachers to encourage walking
- A schedule that may not allow for slow and labored walking
- Availability of the right mobility aids to best support the child’s current abilities
- A fear of falling
When it comes to mobility aids, there are a number on the market that your child’s doctor or therapist can prescribe. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for the best walker, wheelchair, or seat. Instead, each needs to be specially fitted to the patient to ensure it offers the necessary support.
Some common mobility aids used by children with cerebral palsy include:
- Posterior walkers
- Gait trainers
- Manual and motorized wheelchairs
Often, doctors prescribe orthotics and other braces to offer additional support, and children use these in conjunction with mobility aids.
Cerebral Palsy Lawsuits
When it comes to mobility problems children with cerebral palsy face, the cost of medication, therapy, and mobility aids as they advance and age can quickly add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In many cases, cerebral palsy is preventable and occurs because of a medical error or medical negligence. You may be able to file a birth injury lawsuit and pursue damages that include the cost of your child’s treatment, ongoing care costs, and pain and suffering damages. You do not need to handle this process alone.