Autism and cerebral palsy (CP) are distinct neurological conditions that often co-occur in children with birth injuries. The CDC reports that 1 in 10 children with CP are also diagnosed with some form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

While each condition presents its challenges and symptoms, children with both disorders can struggle with daily life, requiring extra medical care, adaptive devices, and healthcare services.

If you suspect your child’s co-occurring autism and CP are due to medical negligence, timely identification and diagnosis are crucial. Recognizing these disorders early can help your child receive appropriate interventions and your family to pursue compensation with the help of an experienced Indiana birth injury lawyer.

What Does it Mean When Conditions are Co-Occurring?

The term “co-occurring” refers to the diagnosis of two or more medical conditions in a person at the same time. For ASD and CP, co-occurrence means a child may be diagnosed with both disorders simultaneously.

Understanding this co-occurrence is crucial for effective treatment and management, as each condition can influence or worsen the other’s symptoms and required interventions. For example, sensory sensitivities associated with autism might make physical therapy more challenging for a child with cerebral palsy.

What is Autism?

ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects behavior, communication, and social interaction. The term “spectrum” emphasizes that the symptoms can vary greatly from one individual to another, ranging from mild to severe.

Autism is often diagnosed in early childhood, although its symptoms may become noticeable in the first few years of a child’s life. The exact cause of autism remains unclear, but it is generally accepted that genetic and environmental factors play a role.

Some common symptoms of ASD include:

  • Social challenges: Difficulty understanding social cues and forming relationships.
  • Communication difficulties: Problems with verbal and non-verbal communication, such as challenges in understanding or using language and interpreting facial expressions or tone of voice.
  • Repetitive behaviors: Engaging in repetitive activities or movements and exhibiting a strong desire for routines and consistency.

Diagnosing autism involves multiple steps, including medical history, observation, and various assessments and tests. These might include developmental screenings, behavioral assessments, and, in some cases, more specialized tests conducted by healthcare providers specializing in autism and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Diagnosis is usually reliable in children by age two, similar to cerebral palsy, and is critical for early intervention and treatment planning.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

CP is a neurological disorder that primarily impacts muscle movement and motor skills. It is usually caused by brain damage caused before, during, or immediately after birth (such as by oxygen deprivation during delivery) and is a lifelong condition.

Unlike many neurological disorders, CP is non-progressive, meaning the brain damage does not worsen over time. However, symptoms can evolve or become more apparent as the child ages.

Symptoms of CP include:

  • Motor skill difficulties: Challenges with coordination and muscle control, affecting movement and posture.
  • Muscle tone issues: Abnormalities in muscle tone, such as muscles being either too stiff (spasticity) or too floppy (hypotonia).
  • Other associated problems: Alongside motor issues, CP often comes with other complications like speech and vision problems, cognitive impairments, and seizures.

Diagnosis often involves a combination of clinical evaluations and medical imaging techniques like MRI or CT scans. Doctors assess the child’s developmental milestones, posture, and motor skills, often referring to specialists for more in-depth evaluations.

Early diagnosis is crucial for effective management and treatment, as interventions like physical therapy are most effective when started as soon as possible.

Medical Negligence and Birth Injuries

Medical negligence refers to substandard care provided by healthcare professionals that falls below the expected level—in this case, during delivery of an infant. Negligence can include delayed action (such as delaying a necessary c-section), misjudgment during labor, or improper use of medical equipment. These lapses can lead to birth injuries, affecting the child’s brain and nervous system.

Injuries such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)—brain damage caused by lack of oxygen—or intracranial hemorrhage due to traumatic delivery methods or misuse of instruments like forceps or vacuum extractors are strongly linked to the development of conditions like CP and potentially ASD.

Recognizing and proving medical negligence is crucial for families seeking financial compensation. Financial compensation can help with the considerable costs associated with lifelong care, special educational needs, and medical treatments for conditions like CP and ASD.

Protect Your Child’s Future with Help From Wagner Reese

If you suspect your child’s CP or ASD may have resulted from medical negligence during their birth, speak with a birth injury attorney from Wagner Reese.

We can investigate the circumstances around your child’s birth to determine if medical negligence played a part in their co-occurring ASD and CP. If we believe your provider failed to uphold the standard of care, resulting in your baby’s diagnosis, we can help you file a cerebral palsy lawsuit for compensation.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation, and let us help you seek a fair settlement for your child’s future.