At this time, cerebral palsy cannot be cured, but due to medical research, many patients can enjoy near-normal lives if their neurological problems are properly managed. As a child gets older and begins formal schooling, the intensity of services will vary from individual to individual. Persons with cerebral palsy are usually able to attain a substantial degree of independence but, in some cases, may need considerable assistance.
Services for the school age child may include continuing therapy, regular or special education, counseling, technical support, community integration opportunities, recreation and possible personal attendants. A key factor seems to be a supportive family. People extensively affected by cerebral palsy can still be highly functional and independent. The HEATH Resource Center, the clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities, states that a significant number of students with cerebral palsy are enrolled in colleges and universities.
Important advances have taken place in the last 15 years, which have had a great effect on the long-term well being of children born with cerebral palsy. Advanced technology, including computers and engineering devices, has been applied to the needs of persons with cerebral palsy. Technological innovations have been developed in the areas of speech and communication, self-care, and adapting living arrangements and work sites. The future may bring even more significant applications.
Another important development has been the increased ability of persons with disabilities, including those who have cerebral palsy and other severe disabilities, to live independently in the community. Adults with cerebral palsy are now living, with or without assistance, in their own apartments or townhouses. Independent Living Centers have also proven to be important resources for persons with disabilities.
WHAT RESEARCH IS BEING DONE?
Research suggests that some instances of cerebral palsy results from incorrect cell development early in pregnancy. For example, a group of researchers has recently observed that more than one-third of children with cerebral palsy also have missing enamel on certain teeth.
Scientists are also examining other events -such as bleeding in the brain, seizures, and breathing and circulation problems – that threaten the brain of a newborn baby. Some investigators are conducting studies to learn whether certain drugs can help prevent neonatal stroke, and other investigators are examining the causes of low birth-weight.
Other scientists are exploring how brain insults (like brain damage from a shortage of oxygen or blood flow, bleeding in the brain, and seizures) can cause the abnormal release of brain chemicals and trigger brain disease.