Cerebral palsy is a condition that cannot be cured. But it can be managed, with the right treatment. One way to ensure this happens, is by becoming aware of all the various therapies available, and getting an early, accurate diagnosis.
In Bangladesh – while carers of those with cerebral palsy are indeed becoming more aware – the situation has, historically, held back those with the disability in the region from being treated properly. The situation in Bangladesh is quite severe. Between one and two percent of all babies born there are at some point, diagnosed with having some form of cerebral palsy. Places such as the Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed are offering services to help those manage their condition. Unfortunately however, this facility is the only of its kind in Bangladesh that provides specialized services for those with cerebral palsy, admitting 80 every month from between three months to 12-years old.
At the center, different therapies are offered as well as education classes for parents. As the head of the pediatric unit, Hosneara Perveen, notes, awareness and education is crucial. The earlier those with cerebral palsy arrive at the center, the more help they can receive. The problem is that many kids with cerebral palsy do not get the diagnosis until they are six or seven years old. One of the reasons there is such a lack of awareness is the stigma and shame parents of disabled children encounter in Bangladesh.
It is thus crucial that the social stigma is confronted through education on the what, how and why of cerebral palsy. Those with the condition shouldn’t be excluded, but rather should be taken for the right treatment which will result in a substantial improvement.
The task now is to figure out how to educate others and thereafter provide them with the therapeutic services available that are so clearly beneficial. One way of doing this is through outreach, which the center is planning. But it’s more than just educating parents. Teachers need to learn a few lessons too. It seems they have been excluding children with cerebral palsy from classes. This should soon come to an end since the Bangladeshi government has declared “every child can access education.”
Since then, 7 such students have been returned to schools. And, at the same time, the CRP has begun its very own “inclusive school” enabling kids with disabilities to learn alongside kids without disabilities. Indeed, according to a study by Elisabeth Köng there has been proof that children with cerebral palsy who were treated from the first year of their life, had far better results vis-à-vis improvement than those who had not. Out of the 69 cases studied – of those children treated early at the Centre in Bern, 53 were reported to have had a “normal gait,” displaying only very limited neurological signs under stress. Following this study, it has been advised that all “at risk” babies should be examined every month, from 3 months old, to attain an early diagnosis.