Home / Blog / Is Cerebral Palsy Considered a Brain Injury?

While cerebral palsy can result from brain damage, the condition is usually considered a neurological disorder rather than a brain injury. It is one of the most common childhood neurological disorders: 2013 research found that about 2 in every 1,000 children born will have the condition.

Raising a child with cerebral palsy can be rewarding yet challenging, especially if your child is expected to be healthy. Read on to explore the causes of cerebral palsy with Wagner Reese Injury Lawyers.

How Does Cerebral Palsy Occur?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cerebral palsy (CP) is generally believed to result from atypical brain development in utero or brain damage in utero or infancy. Of all CP cases, 85% to 90% are classified as congenital, meaning that the CP originated in the womb or from birth.

The exact cause of CP is unknown. Several studies suggest that some cases of CP are genetic. However, many cases may result from brain injury during birth, especially due to oxygen deprivation or head trauma. This can be caused by birthing complications that aren’t handled correctly or swiftly enough, or by negligence of medical staff.

Inadequate medical care during pregnancy can also lead to developing or worsening of several risk factors for the condition. For example, contracting an infection during pregnancy can place the baby at a higher risk of developing CP.

You should consult a medical malpractice attorney if you believe that negligent prenatal care or negligent care during delivery contributed to your child’s CP. You may be able to get compensation for their past and future medical care through a birth injury lawsuit.

Early Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

The National Institute of Child Health and Development reports that while many children with CP remain undiagnosed before age 2, most show some signs of the condition by early infancy. It’s essential to monitor your child’s development and attend regular appointments with their pediatrician to catch early signs of CP or other developmental disabilities, especially if you believe your child’s CP is a result of a birth injury.

Some early symptoms of CP include:

  • Developmental Delays: CP can cause varying levels of muscle spasticity, ataxia, and dyskinesia. These conditions affect gross motor function, so infants with CP may not reach developmental milestones at the expected pace. Your child may be late to roll over, sit up, crawl, or walk. Some children may also have speech delays due to trouble controlling the muscles needed to speak.
  • Abnormal Muscle Tone: Some infants with CP may have low muscle tone, making them seem weak, floppy, or limp. Others may have unusually high muscle tone and frequently seem stiff or tense.
  • Abnormal Posture: Unusual muscle tone or difficulty controlling their muscles can cause your baby to lie, sit, crawl, or stand with an unusual posture. For example, if you pick up your baby, they may reflexively cross their legs or push away from you by arching their neck and back.

Qualifying for Cerebral Palsy Disability Benefits

If your child has severe CP and your household has limited income, you may be able to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on behalf of your child. SSI is a federal program that provides payments to disabled individuals each month. To qualify for federal SSI, your child must:

  • Not work
  • Earn under a certain threshold per month (in 2022, this threshold is $1,350)
  • Be significantly restricted by their CP
  • Be disabled, or be expected to be disabled, for 12 months or more

While it may take several months for the Social Security Administration to conclude if your child is disabled, a diagnosis of CP may make them eligible to receive SSI payments before the SSA officially makes their decision.

What to Expect When Raising a Child with CP

Everyone with CP is different, but even people with severe CP can live happy, fulfilling lives. Most children with CP will reach milestones later in life and require extra medical assistance or treatment, like occupational therapy, mobility aids, or surgeries to treat muscle or nerve problems.

Some children may also have co-occurring epilepsy, learning disabilities, or intellectual disabilities.

Free services are available to help children with CP learn and grow. For example, Indiana’s First Steps program provides early intervention services to children under 3, while older children can receive in-school support through an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

However, even with free services, the costs of caring for a child with CP can place a significant financial strain on your family. If a doctor’s carelessness during your pregnancy or labor led to your child’s CP, you may be able to recover damages with the help of an Indianapolis cerebral palsy lawyer that you can use to cover the cost of your child’s medical bills. If your child’s CP will prevent them from ever earning a living, you may also be owed compensation for their lost future income through a birth injury lawsuit.

Consult with Wagner Reese Today

If you believe your child’s cerebral palsy is the result of medical negligence, Wagner Reese Injury Lawyers can help you recover compensation needed to help your child get the care they need now and in the future. Contact us today for a free case review.