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National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day: Everything You Should Know About The Condition



March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month here in the United States and today, March 25, is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. This day began being observed back in 2005 and was created thanks to the efforts of a group called Reaching For The Stars — an education and advocacy group created by parents of children who have the condition.


This group took it upon themselves to create awareness and bring attention about this condition that had so little research behind it, despite the fact that Cerebral Palsy is one of the most common motor disabilities in children. The group is led by Cynthia Frisina, the VP of partnerships at the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.


Frisina and her team reached out to longtime Georgia Senator, Johnny Isakson, to persuade Isakson and his staff to start the process of establishing March 25 as National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. They also decided to make green the official color of National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day as people would still have St. Patrick’s Day merch on hand after the Irish holiday.


The choice of green also reflects youthfulness and growth, that is usually associated with the condition as those who live with CP receive treatment that helps them grow and they are usually diagnosed at a young age. The holiday has grown exponentially since its inception and now, many landmarks across the United States are lit up, or painted, green to commemorate the occasion.

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Cerebral Palsy is a movement disorder that appears early in a child’s life and affects that child’s body movements and muscular coordination. CP is caused by either the abnormal development of a child in the womb — like the cerebral motor cortex not developing normally during fetal growth. Damage to parts of the brain that control movement can also result in CP. This damage usually occurs before, during, or after a baby is born. Either way, the damage is typically permanent.


CP is diagnosed early in childhood after parents or caregivers see babies under the age of six months lagging in their milestones. Things like the baby feeling stiff, floppy, and the baby’s head lagging when you pick them up can all be indicators of CP in babies under six months. For children over six months, they may not be able to roll over correctly, bring their hands together, have difficulty bringing their hand to their mouths, and may reach out with only one hand while the other hand is in a constant fist.


Over the age of 10 months, indicators of cerebral palsy can be seen while crawling in a lopsided manner and has difficulty standing while holding onto something.


The different forms of CP are determined by the extent of the injury, the kind of injury, and the location of said injury. The three-movement specifications associated with CP are spastic, which is linked to stiff muscles, athetoid, which is when the person lacks control of the movement in their arms, legs, and face. And finally, there is ataxic CP which is the least common form of the condition only affecting five to ten percent of the population with the condition. Ataxic CP is caused due to the damage in the cerebellum of the brain and is typically characterized by poorly coordinated movements and the inability to walk correctly, if they’re able to walk at all.


An important detail to consider during National CP Month is the fact that CP isn’t a disease and it isn’t contagious. The life expectancy of those with the condition is fairly similar to the life expectancy of anyone else. And with the right care, love, and attention, a child with CP can grow up to live their lives just like anyone else.


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