Founded by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva in 2004, the National Centre for the Social Adaptation of Children (NCSAC) provides much-needed care and support for Uzbek children with disabilities or developmental disorders.
At the NCSAC, one of the most common conditions that is treated is cerebral palsy (CP). A brain disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination, CP is the most frequently occurring physical impairment among children. Worldwide, an estimated 17 million children are affected. However, despite its prevalence, CP is still not well understood by the general public, and many misconceptions about the condition continue to exist. Read on to get the facts behind nine myths about CP.
Myth: CP Is a Disease
Reality: CP is more accurately described as a neurological condition that results in physical impairment. Unlike diseases, which are typically caused by genetics, viruses, or bacteria, CP results from a brain injury or abnormal development of the brain before, during, or immediately after birth. Furthermore, “cerebral palsy” is not a single disorder. Rather, the term describes a range of conditions that cause different types and degrees of physical impairment.
Myth: CP Always Affects Cognitive Functioning
Reality: Since CP results from injury to or abnormal development of the brain, it is not uncommon for people with CP to experience intellectual impairment in addition to mobility and motor control challenges that are the main features of CP. However, an estimated 50% to 70% of people with CP do not experience any impact on their cognitive functioning. In addition, it’s important to note that some of the physical symptoms of CP, such as difficulty speaking clearly, are not necessarily signs of an intellectual impairment.
Myth: CP Is Contagious
Reality: CP is not the flu. You can’t catch it simply by being around someone with CP. While many different things can cause CP, it is not a communicable—or contagious—condition.
Myth: CP Is Hereditary
Reality: While experts are still unsure whether or to what degree genetic influences play a role in the development of CP, there is no specific genetic disorder that is known to be responsible for the condition. This means that it is not considered to be hereditary. A parent with CP will not necessarily have a child with the condition. Moreover, a parent who has had one child with CP will not necessarily have another child with the condition.
Myth: Only Children Can Develop CP
Reality: While an individual is most likely to be affected with CP from birth, there are some circumstances under which CP can develop later in life. For example, severe meningitis and encephalitis can sometimes lead to brain damage and CP. Similarly, a severe head injury and associated trauma to the brain could lead to the development of CP as an adult.
Myth: People with CP Can’t Walk
Reality: One of the most important things to understand about CP is that the condition covers a broad spectrum of symptoms, and each person with CP will be affected differently. While many people with CP rely on wheelchairs in order to get around, others can learn to walk relatively easily with minimal impairment. Generally, it takes time to determine exactly how an individual will be impacted by their CP symptoms. That is, it’s difficult to tell during early development whether a child diagnosed with CP will be able to walk independently when they’re older, or whether they will need mobility aids.
Myth: CP Is Progressive or Degenerative
Reality: CP often gets confused with other neurological conditions, such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or Parkinson’s disease, that become worse over time. However, since CP results from one-time damage to the brain, it is not a progressive condition and does not spread. However, even though there is no ongoing degeneration of the brain in CP, this does not mean that an individual’s symptoms will remain the same over the course of their lives. Depending on factors like the care received and the lifestyle choices made, symptoms can improve or worsen as the years go by.
Myth: CP Is Fatal
Reality: Just as CP is not progressive, neither is it fatal. Except in extremely severe cases, CP is considered to be a non-life-threatening condition. Most children who are born with or who develop CP shortly after birth typically live well into adulthood.
Myth: CP Is Curable
Reality: Currently, there is no cure for CP. The brain damage that causes the disorder is irreparable. What this means is that individuals diagnosed with CP will live with that condition for their entire life. This may change in the future, as some experimental trials of stem cell therapies are showing promising results. However, at present, the treatments, therapies, and surgeries that are available to individuals with CP focus on alleviating symptoms and helping people manage the condition and maximize their functioning.