Archive for the ‘Cerebral Palsy’ Category

Dogs a huge help for special needs kids

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Dogs and kids just seem to go together. Whether it’s running around the yard and roughhousing or just sitting quietly watching TV together on the sofa, dogs seem to gravitate toward kids. For some special needs kids, however, dogs are more than just a friend and play buddy; they are actually a daily caregiver.

The idea of service dogs for disabled children is a little-known yet burgeoning niche in the world of special needs. Everyone knows about service dogs for the blind. I have to admit that until recently, I had never even considered service dogs for other disabilities, let alone children. Then a friend of mine whose son is autistic mentioned that she was thinking about getting an autism service dog for her son. I was puzzled. Her son suffers from sensory processing disorder so I didn’t understand what a dog would be able to do for him. Kids with autism usually don’t have physical handicaps. But as I talked to her and started reading up on the topic, I found that well-trained dogs can be a huge help to autistic kids, as well as kids with other disabilities.

For autistic children, service dogs don’t offer specific physical assistance, but are highly trained in behavior disruption, which is a major component of autism. As any parent of an autistic child can tell you, behavior disruption is common. It can be different triggers for different children, but the common denominator is that something (usually something benign to most of us) sets off what we laypeople would call an emotional or physical meltdown. This can be a mild tantrum or can be a full-blown one complete with collapsing on the floor and shrieking. Trying to calm an autistic child in the throes of such a meltdown can be a major challenge. It turns out that a dog trained to recognize such behavior and engage the child is a highly calming influence on the child. The dog essentially soothes the child and comforts him or her, shortening the duration and severity of the meltdown, and also cutting down on the number of meltdowns. Rather than getting overly focused on whatever it is that is bothering him or her, the child seems to focus on the ever-present dog and can bypass what otherwise might trigger a reaction.

The dog also gives other support that is less tangible but equally important – giving the child something to focus on if distracted, providing companionship, and assisting with developing friendships with other children. Special needs children are sadly often excluded by so-called normal children which can add a tremendous feeling of isolation for such children. Having a service dog helps break the ice with new kids and provides a constant companion when other children are not around.

Physically, a service dog also helps protect the child and keep him or her safe. One major concern with autistic children is that they are easily distracted and may not think as logically as other children.  They are more prone to wandering off in public because they get distracted by something and follow it, even if it takes them into traffic or near a dangerous body of water.  They may decide to leave the house alone for no apparent reason, even in the middle of the night. Service dogs are trained to restrain the child and act as a second pair of eyes on the child, which is a huge asset to the parents.

Legal fight over service dogs in school

A great piece of news recently came out of Oregon involving an autistic boy named Scooter Givens and his service dog, Madison. For years, Scooter’s parents fought their son’s school for the right to have the dog attend school with him under the ADA (American with Disabilities Act). The school fought back. Finally, the school backed down and agreed to at least try to allow Scooter to bring Madison to school with him. They are starting with part-time hours and working up to full days. If Madison can keep Scooter from having meltdowns, it should be a win-win for both the school and the family.

Cost and Availability

Service dogs are not cheap, nor are they readily available. A well-trained dog can cost  upwards of $20,000, depending on the level of training that is required (which is why my friend is not heading out this weekend to buy one). While this may seem excessive, the cost is actually justified when you realize that it can take six months or more of intense work  to properly train a service dog. That is months of food, shelter and paying a trainer to spend  hundreds of hours training each dog, as well as the additional training time when the dog is matched with the family. It is a labor-intensive process. However, there are ways to meet the cost. Many training facilities seek outside funding to help defray the costs of training, which lowers the ultimate cost to the family. Some families will actually do fundraising themselves to try to pay their portion of the cost. Even with this approach, however, the sad fact is that service dogs are unfortunately out of reach for a large number of people, especially when you consider the other high costs of raising a special needs child.

Other disabilities:

In addition to autism, service dogs are trained to care for people with other disabilities – deafness, mobility issues, and one that I found absolutely fascinating – seizure disorder. Dogs are trained to assist people who suffer seizures by getting the telephone and medicines, and keeping the person physically safe during a seizure. Some dogs can even go so far as to anticipate an oncoming seizure and alert the person to lay down in a safe position before the seizure starts. How the dog knows this is anyone’s guess. So far, science has been unable to explain it. Some researchers theorize that during the earliest phase of a seizure, the person’s electrical brain activity subtly changes a person’s odor which the dog detects. Dogs have a sense of smell that is 300 times stronger than what we have. While this may be the explanation, no one knows for sure so it remains a fascinating mystery.

If you are interested in a special needs dog, there are a number of organizations out there for you to consider. Here are just a few:

4 Paws for Ability:  http://www.4pawsforability.org/

North Star Foundation:  http://www.northstardogs.com/autism.shtml

Dogs for the Deaf:   http://www.dogsforthedeaf.org/index.php

Have any of our readers had any experience with special needs dogs?  I would love to hear your stories.

 

Photo from staplenews.com

 

 

Birth Defect Updates: Warnings about opioid use before and during pregnancy

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Photo credit: Getty Images

Recently, I wrote about studies concerning the increased risk of birth defects caused by smoking.  A recent press release from the CDC draws attention to a newly discovered link between the use of certainly prescription opioid pain relievers by a woman shortly before conception or in the first trimester of pregnancy to an increase in birth defects.  Similar to the evidence about smoke exposure, the research identifies the period before conception and during early pregnancy as critical.  I think that these findings raise questions about the use of these drugs by woman of child-bearing age as the critical time period may be one when a woman is not aware that she is pregnant or going to become pregnant.

Use of these opioid pain relievers, such as codeine and oxycodone, “was linked to several types of congenital heart defects as well as spina bifida, hydrocephaly, congenital glaucoma and gastroschisis.”  According to the press release, the study, which was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, “found that women who took prescription opioid medications just before or during early pregnancy had about two times the risk for having a baby with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (one of the most critical heart defects) as women who were not treated with these opioid medications.”   Overall the CDC statement suggests that the risk of these defects is not that large for any individual woman given the rarity of these conditions, but that it is important information nonetheless since the defects are very significant.

Cerebral Palsy rates dropping in U.S.

In happier news, overall rates of cerebral palsy are dropping in the United States.  The cause of the decline is linked to improved care during pregnancy and at birth.  According to Medical News Today, a new “…article published in The Journal of Pediatrics indicates that the rates of cerebral palsy have declined dramatically in the past 15 years.” This is exciting news not just because it means that many fewer children are born with a devastating injury but also because it is an indicator of a general improvement in the care provided to mothers and babies before, during and immediately following birth.

 

 

IEP’s: Stand Up for Your Child’s Rights – Be Their Best Advocate

Monday, March 14th, 2011

IEP File Folder from KnowledgePoints.com

Recently I wrote a blog about the general difficulties facing parents who are raising a disabled child. This week I want to address one of those specific guidelines – ensuring a quality and appropriate education for your child. For many children with disabilities, they cannot meet the traditional school criteria because of either mental, physical or other special needs. For such children, an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, is a crucial step. What is an IEP? As the name implies, it is a written education plan that is specifically tailored to your individual child rather than a general plan used for all children. Keep in mind that an IEP is not something that your disabled child may be entitled to. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that IEP’s be developed for all students with disabilities.

Who creates an IEP? For every child, there is an IEP team which generally consists of the following people – the parents, the child’s teacher, the child’s special education provider, a public agency representative and perhaps other providers such as physical therapists. Depending on the age of the child and the specific disability, the child may also be part of the team. I want to emphasize that while the IEP team is filled with so-called experts in education and disability, the most important person on the team is the parent. There are two key points to keep in mind:  1) you, as the parent, are the best advocate for your child; and 2) never be afraid to stand up to the experts.

On the first point, I encourage you to read as much as possible and become informed on the subject, e.g., what new laws are coming out, what new technologies may be available. Only that way can you truly become an advocate for your child. There are a number of excellent sites on the Internet that give a wealth of information (see links below).

Parents of disabled children tell me that they have learned the hard way that there is only one person who truly cares what happens to their child – and that is the parent (or parents as the case may be). It is easy to go into an IEP meeting thinking that the administrators and teachers have your child’s best interest at heart. That’s not necessarily the case. While these people may be caring and decent people, they have other interests to consider – budgets, time constraints, other students, etc. You are the only one who is truly devoted to getting what is best for your child. Also, you are the one who knows your child best.  Just like when you go into a pediatrician’s office and describe your child’s symptoms and behavior, the same is true when attending an IEP meeting. You have interacted with your child more than anyone else. You see changes, skills, abilities (and disabilities) more than the folks who only see your child at school.  Share your knowledge and make sure the IEP team gets the benefit of your expertise as a parent.

On the second point, it can be difficult as a layperson to question those whom we see as experts. We have all been trained to defer to those with more experience. Unfortunately, some “experts” have been trained to talk down to others. A small personal story — years ago I took my grandmother to the doctor for a small skin rash. The doctor said it was psoriasis. I asked him how he knew it was psoriasis and not eczema, a similar skin condition. I will never forget his answer. “Because,” he said, “I’m a doctor.” He may as well have said, “Shut up and don’t question my expertise.” If someone on your IEP team ever adopts such an attitude with you, stand up to that person and demand answers. It is your child whose future is at issue, not the teacher’s.

As for resources, the rise in awareness of disability and IEP’s has created an entire field of special education law. Not that you need an attorney to obtain an IEP, but you should be aware of your child’s legal rights. One excellent resource that comes highly recommended from parents is Wrightslaw.com, which contains a wealth of information on disability law and special education.

No doubt a number of you have had to deal with IEP issues for your child. What has been effective for you in terms of getting the best plan for your child? What hasn’t worked? What legal entanglements have you run into? What advise do you have so that others may benefit?

Some Source References:

For general information on IEP’s (and one with a special focus on Maryland), I would recommend the following sites:

Maryland State Department of Education

National Center for Learning Disabilities

Education.com

Schaffer v Weast (a summary of the Supreme Court’s decision on burden of proof in IEP matters)

 

 

The daily struggle of raising a disabled child

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Parents must cope with daily concerns of special needs children

Like many parents, I am blessed to have healthy children.  I take it for granted that my kids are smart, active, well-adjusted.  I don’t even have to think about their health other than the occasional cold or earache or sprained ankle. Others are not so fortunate.

This past weekend I was reading in Maryland Family Magazine an article about a local college professor who wrote a book about raising a son with severe autism.  After writing the book, he assumed that a major publisher would have interest. He ended up being turned down by some agents who told him that without a happy ending or a cure, there was no way they could market the story. Apparently, the public wants stories about disability to have a Hollywood ending. (A publisher finally did come along that agreed to publish the book).

This, in turn, made me think of a good friend of mine (I’ll call her Jane), who has a disabled son (autism spectrum) in addition to three normal children. I hesitate to use the words normal and disabled for two reasons:  1) we live in a politically correct world where deciding what label to apply to anything means stepping into a social minefield; and 2) on the spectrum of mental or physical ability, it can be difficult to say what exactly is normal versus abnormal. I never want to suggest that children with limitations are abnormal. Some parents even bristle at the term “disabled.” Others use the more cumbersome term “neurotypical” rather than the term “normal.” You can see that it can be hard to discuss the topic of disability when we don’t even have terms we can all agree on.

Jane and I often discuss our kids and parenting. She has been very candid with me in describing how incredibly hard it is to raise a disabled child. She believes that no one really wants to hear the negative side of raising a child with special needs. Like the publishing agents that the professor encountered, some people only want to hear about the inspirational side of the story. Truth is, there is not always a happy ending or miracle cure when raising a disabled child, be it autism or cerebral palsy or paraplegia. These are life-long disabilities. There are happy moments, of course, as well as accomplishments both major and minor, but for parents raising a disabled child, it is a daily struggle to make sure that the child gets the medical care and therapy and attention that he or she needs. Parents undertake this monumental and thankless task not because they hope for some Hollywood ending, but because they love their child and they do what they need to do, even if they never knew they had such strength and determination in them.

It’s not all negative, of course. Jane tells me all the time how much she loves her son and how he has taught her so much about herself and about life. She says she cannot imagine who she would be without her son. At the same time, however, she also feels a lot of pain and loss and regret about what she and her family have had to sacrifice in order to care for her disabled son. The daily struggle can truly be overwhelming at times. Jane believes that parents often feel unable to express these feelings for fear of being branded a less-than-stellar parent. As she told me, “There isn’t a safe place to express one’s own doubts about being able to effectively take care of another person who requires so much care. It’s daunting, hard and stressful and for some reason it’s not completely OK to admit that.”  Jane is careful about the sentiments she expresses in public versus those she tells to her friends:

There is the aspect of autism that you are allowed to talk about versus not allowed. I’m allowed to admit it’s hard, but I can’t really say how hard or I’m too negative. I’m just supposed to say it has changed my perspective and I’m blessed.  It has changed my perspective but I’m not blessed. Shut up about being blessed.

While disabilities are all different and every parent’s story is unique, there is a common thread that runs through them all – raising a disabled child takes its toll on the parents and the family as well as the child. The challenges can be enormous. Some of the more common challenges include:

  • Financial:  Finding ways to afford medical care, therapy, services;  working with insurance companies and various state agencies;
  • Educational:  Struggling with teachers and school administrators to make sure that your child is getting an appropriate education and Individualized Education Program or IEP.
  • Medical:  Finding doctors who are willing to take the time to listen to your concerns and diagnose your child; getting referrals to specialists; sorting through the myriad hoops of insurance; finding therapies that work for your child;
  • Social:  The loss of normal everyday activities like going out to dinner, taking trips, seeing friends; not having anywhere to turn to talk about what they are going through.
  • Marital:  A couple often experiences difficulty because of all the other stresses that are created by having a disabled child, as well as the substantial time investment that is required.
  • Family: Other children in the family can be affected because mom and dad have to devote so much time to the disabled child and because the family’s usual routine and activities are disrupted; money can often be tight.
  • Psychological: Many mothers experience feelings of guilt, wondering if it was something they did during pregnancy that caused their child to have this disability.
  • Legal: Figuring out what rights you and your disabled child have, what services you are entitled to.

I can’t say enough about those parents who take on these challenges on a daily basis.  It is difficult to even imagine the level of devotion and commitment that is required.  I welcome all parents to share their stories — the good and the bad — so that the rest of us can try to better understand the reality of raising a disabled child.  In future blogs I will talk about some of these challenges in more detail and where parents can turn for assistance.

Image from metroparent.com

Cerebral Palsy: Cord Blood Stem Cell Research and Treatment in Clinical Trials – Update

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

For those of  you who follow our blogs, you know well that this is a topic of interest for us.  It bears repeating – our job as lawyers is to properly investigate potential claims of malpractice in areas such as cerebral palsy and seek redress for our clients when the evidence demonstrates a connection between birth injuries and medical care, but the much more important topic for our clients and victims of cerebral palsy is in the field of medical research. It is through research efforts – including clinical trials – that this dreaded condition will be ameliorated and hopefully eradicated. Trust me, after practicing law for over 35 years, I’m not worried about job security – the frailties of the human condition will more than suffice to fill our file cabinets with people to help due to the negligence of others.

We have reported previously on various topics involving cord blood and stem cell research as they relate to a number of conditions, including cerebral palsy.  It seems that months have passed since there has been any significant news about two programs underway: one at the Medical College of Georgia and the other at Duke.  Earlier this month, an update came across the social media network via a post by Singularity Hub – Cord Blood Stem Cell Treatment for Cerebral Palsy in Clinical Trial | Singularity Hub.

Here’s our encapsulated version regarding the studies and Singularity Hub’s report.

Photo provided by MSNBC

Duke University

According to the website ClincalTrials.gov, Duke began a clinical therapeutic trial – identifier: NCT00593242 - in January 2008 (estimated completion date of January 2011) whose primary purpose is listed as treatment of newborns with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) – inadequate oxygenation in the perinatal period for purposes of this study – through the controlled “collection, preparation and infusion of a baby’s own (autologous) umbilical cord blood in the first 14 days after birth if the baby is born with signs of brain injury.” For information concerning the inclusion and exclusion criteria for participation in this clinical trial, see the online posting. Essentially, the babies are then to be “followed for neurodevelopmental outcome at 4 – 6 and 9 – 12 months at Duke’s Special Infant Care Clinic. MRI’s will be obtained between postnatal weeks 1 and 4, and, for study purposes at 4 – 6 postnatal months.”

While other aspects of processing and administration are no doubt part of the key components of this project, it is readily apparent that the end-point goal is discovery of an effective treatment of cerebral palsy for the identified neonates in the study and then development of a second stage clinical trial to take such treatment modality to a greater number of potential beneficiaries.

Medical College of Georgia

For detailed information on this study, which began in February of this year, similar information is available through ClinicalTrials.gov under identifier NCT01072370.  This clinical trial investigation has a patient population consisting of children from ages of 2 to 12, “whose parents have saved their infant’s cord blood, who have non-progressive motor disability, and whose parents intend to have a cord blood infusion.”  Again – for full details regarding inclusion and exclusion criteria, see the full online posting.

For those parents who may be interested in determining if their child would qualify to participate, the study is still recruiting participants.  The contact information is also available at this link: Contact: James E Carroll, M.D.     706-721-3371     jcarroll@mcg.edu

Today’s report from Singularity Hub provides some encouraging – albeit anecdotal – news of potential progress.

The anecdotal evidence in support of treating cerebral palsy with cord blood stem cells is astounding. Much of it has actually been been performed at Duke University by one of the investigators in the pilot study: Joanne Kurtzberg. Among those that have been successfully treated at Duke include Ryan Schneider, Maia Friedlander, Chloe Levine, and Dallas Hextell. All had CP or CP-like symptoms and all made remarkable recoveries after cord blood stem cell treatments. Dallas Hextell, who showed improvements just 5 days after his therapy was featured on the Today show (the original report contains video compliments of MSNBC).

In addition to the early good news coming out of these projects, one other lesson is learned – for the time being, the storage of cord blood is an important component for those hoping to participate in such studies – particularly that being conducted at the Medical College of Georgia.  We have earlier reported on this topic as well.  You may want to refer to our early posting for some basic information if you are interested.

Obviously, the implications – if these projects prove to be successful – are far-reaching. The enthusiasm of the participants in these research projects is not limited to them alone. The words of the author, Aaron Saenz, from Singularity Hub somewhat tells it all:

So we have some exciting news for cerebral palsy, and some exciting news for those thinking about cord blood. What about the rest of us? Well the MCG and Duke work has some far reaching implications. Neurological damage, whether it’s caused by oxygen deprivation or some other injury, is one of the most difficult things to heal in the body. Work in animals (like that done by Carroll on rats) show that stem cells can not only help damaged brain cells recover, but they can also replace cells that have died. We may find that stem cells therapies have a wide range of applications for many different forms of brain damage. Kurtzberg is researching many different ways cord blood could be used (autologous or through donors) to treat a variety of conditions. In other words, today stem cells conquer cerebral palsy…tomorrow, the world.

Let’s all hope that Mr. Saenz is a prophet.

Children With Cerebral Palsy May Benefit From Cell Transplants

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Since our firm at any given time handles a number of cases involving cerebral palsy, I am constantly trying to find useful information about new developments in therapy, research, procedures – anything relevant to the topic of preventing or helping those who suffer from cerebral palsy.

This morning I came across a report in Medical News Today -Children With Cerebral Palsy May Benefit From Cell Transplants – which, I must admit, I had not heard of before.  Apparently a group of Chinese researchers are now hypothesizing that a type of cell known as olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) may hold promise for treatment of infants and those in early childhood with cerebral palsy.  

Clearly this research by the Chinese is not yet being conducted on a large scale level. Nevertheless, I thought I would report on this since the ‘science’ (in which I don’t purport to have expertise) seems logical and potentially noteworthy. With those qualifiers in mind, here is what’s behind this ‘thinking.’  Rather than try to give you the layman’s recap of OEC’s, I’ll let the article speak for itself.

Transplanted OECs, known to retain exceptional plasticity and promote olfactory blood vessel growth while offering neuroprotection, have been demonstrated to be potentially useful for a number of neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and amyotrophc lateral sclerosis (ALS).

So what does this mean for those who suffer from cerebral palsy? The corresponding author Dr. Hongyun Huang of the Beijing Rehabilitation Center provides the details:  ”We conducted a randomized, controlled clinical trial with 33 volunteers, 14 of whom completed the six-month study, to determine if transplanted OECs were effective in treating children and adolescents with CP, given that CP shares many of the same features of other degenerative diseases.”

According to Dr. Huang, a protocol was developed from this hypothesis based on their knowledge of a key location “in the brain’s frontal lobes (defined as the “Key Point for Neural network Restoration (KPNNR)” based on previous studies) for injecting OECs and that the injected OECs would produce Schwann cell-like myelin sheaths around demyelinated axons.”  Demylinated axons are often referenced as a rather consistent finding when imaging the brains of victims of cerebral palsy.

Buoyed by the findings of this admittedly small trial group, Dr. Huang reports:

“Our results showed that transplanting OECs into CP patients could improve the neurological function of the patients and did not cause significant side effects. The procedure may be a plausible method to treat this as yet incurable disorder.”

For anyone who saw the recent 60 Minutes report (21st Century Snake Oil) on charlatans advocating a cure through injection of stem cells (for virtually any malady under the sun), caution takes center stage with all such reports.  No – I’m not suggesting that the Chinese study is voodoo medicine by any stretch of the imagination.  For those who keep up with this field of stem cell research and its potential applicability to treatment of cerebral palsy, you are aware of the recent (early February of this year) announcement by the FDA of an approved trial for stem cell research for victims of cerebral palsy. In addition to our having reported on this FDA-approved trial, I have also reported on a collaborative research program called Newborn Possibilities Program in Arizona, which is yet another collaborative effort using stem cell research concepts to improve the lives of these children.

While hope reigns eternal that meaningful research will lead to meaningful cure or improvement in the quality of life for cerebral palsy victims, Cell Transplantation associate editor Dr. Cesar V. Borlongan offers the following words of caution concerning the Chinese (and other) stem cell clinical trial:

In parallel with recently FDA-approved US clinical trials of cell therapy for adult stroke and cerebral palsy, this clinical study in China advances the use of stem cells for treating brain disorders, but a very careful assessment of this experimental treatment needs to be exercised in order to gauge its safety and efficacy.

Through social networking media such as LinkedIn and Twitter, I have come across some fascinating people who have devoted their lives to stem cell research.  If perchance any of my ‘connections’ and ‘followers’ out there have further information about this Chinese research and other stem cell research programs involving cerebral palsy, I would greatly appreciate your sharing your information with the Nash Law Firm community of readers by posting helpful comments to this blog.

Cerebral Palsy: new research to improve dexterity by home therapy using modified gaming instruments.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Today I came across yet another interesting and common sense concept in the quest to help those with cerebral palsy for performing important dexterity exercises in the comfort of their home.  The article - Daily Targum – Researchers spawn new therapy for cerebral palsy patients – recounts a small study (3 teenage patients) taking place over the last year at Rutgers University and Indiana University using a modified Sony PlayStation 3 gaming glove to improve dexterity for victims of cerebral palsy.  

One of the keys in this research project is to find a way to move therapy into the patient’s home utilizing an activity that all kids enjoy – gaming.  The basic goal is to not only move important therapy into the home but to provide a method for young cerebral palsy patients to perform this therapy without the need of costly and time-contrained supervision.

The program is the product of a collaborative effort of these universities headed by Grigore Burdea, a University professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Moustafa Abdelbaky, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student.  Another key player in this endeavor is Meredith Golomb, an associate professor of neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine.  She found out about Burdea’s work through the Internet and said the combination of her skills with Burdea’s was perfect.

“I’m a pediatric neurologist and know how to assess the kids medically,” Golomb said. “He is an engineer and knows how to get the systems working — it has been a great collaboration so far.”

Some weeks ago, I posted a story about research underway at the University of Michigan in the use of a treadmill to help improve the neuromotor development of younger children with cerebral palsy.

It is through the work of such researchers and many others devoted to helping discover the causes of cerebral palsy that key progress in making the lives of these people with special needs better will be made.  We will  keep you posted on similar studies and research efforts.  Hopefully, if you are the parent of a child with cerebral palsy, you will find one of these techniques of interest and potentially useful in maximizing the chances of a better life for your child.

CDC Features – Data Show 1 in 303 Children Have Cerebral Palsy

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Cerebral palsy – how common is it? A recent “Features” posting by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) provides some answers and gives parents some ‘early signs’ of which to be aware.

While everyone knows that cerebral palsy (CP) can be a devastating condition, it is less well-known how common CP actually is. The Center for Disease Control recently released new data on the frequency of CP. In its study, it found that CP affects 3.3 per 1,000 eight-year-old children, or 1 in 303 children. This data was collected from select communities in Georgia, Alabama and Wisconsin, not the nation overall. Rates may differ slightly in other localities. However, the CDC pointed out that its most current findings on CP frequency were similar to previous studies which showed that CP affected 3.6 per 1,000, or 1 in 278 children.  

In reporting the data, the CDC also advised parents what to look out for in terms of signs of CP, based on the age of the child. Parents should consult a physician if they notice any of the following signs:

A child over 2 months with cerebral palsy might have difficulty controlling head when picked up, or have stiff legs that cross or “scissor” when picked up;

A child over 6 months with cerebral palsy might continue to have a hard time controlling head when picked up, or reach with only one hand while keeping the other in a fist;

A child over 10 months with cerebral palsy might crawl by pushing off with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg, or not sit by himself or herself;

A child over 12 months with cerebral palsy might not crawl, or not be able to stand with support;

A child over 24 months with cerebral palsy might not be able to walk, or not be able to push a toy with wheels.`

Parents, be aware of these early signs!  If you are not sure what to do or to whom you can turn, the CDC offers the following information:

To find out who to speak to in your area, contact the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities by calling 1-800-695-0285 or visiting the Center’s Web site

Of course, you always have your child’s pediatrician as a starting point.

Zarontin – The First-Line of Treatment for Children with Absence Epilepsy

Friday, March 5th, 2010

According to an article published in WebMD, researchers found that Zarontin, one of the oldest drugs used to treat epilepsy, is also one of the most effective drugs to treat this condition. The research study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

As many as 17% of children with epilepsy have absence seizures, also known as petit mal seizures, which involve brief but frequent staring spells that can occur dozens or even hundreds of times a day. These children do not have the convulsions typically associated with epilepsy, but they are at high risk for developing them later in life. During the 10- to 15-second seizure episodes, people with absence epilepsy become unresponsive and may stop walking or talking in mid-sentence. Children with these seizures often perform poorly in school.

Zarontin is the trade name of the anticonvulsant drug Ethosuximide. Ethosuximide is also known as Emeside. In addition to Ethosuximide, a physician’s other options include Valproic Acid and Lamotrigine. The study examined the efficacy of these drugs in treating absence epilepsy.

Lamictal was found to be significantly less effective than Zarontin or Depakote for preventing absence seizures, while treatment with Depakote was more likely to result in concentration problems than treatment with the other two drugs.

Moreover, Zarontin was found to have less of an impact on a child’s concentration and attention. If your child has absence epilepsy, be mindful that the newest and most expensive anticonvulsant on the market may not be your best option. Study co-author Shlomo Shinnar, MD, PhD, of New York’s Montefiore Medical Center noted:

Unless there are reasons not to use it, Zarontin would certainly be my first-line choice.

Contributing author: Jon Stefanuca

Cerebral Palsy Verdict: $23.3 Million – Minnesota – birth injury – delay in performing C-Section

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

This is a report from AboutLawSuits.com:  

The family of a girl who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a result of a birth injury has been awarded $23.3 million by a Minnesota jury after suing a hospital for waiting too long to perform a Cesarean section.

The Minnesota cerebral palsy lawsuit was filed against Rice Memorial Hospital and Affiliated Medical Community Center by Elise Rodgers, as a result of alleged negligence during the birth of her daughter, Kylie, in June 2007. According to a report by Minnesota Public Radio, Rodgers claimed that negligent medical care caused the girl to suffer severe brain damage because doctors failed to act quickly once the fetal monitor warned the child was being deprived of oxygen during labor.

The family argued that Kylie’s umbilical cord was compromised, and that doctors should have performed a Cesarean before she suffered permanent brain damage. Kylie, who now has cerebral palsy as a result of the negligent care, requires constant suctioning of her airway, sometimes as often as every three to five minutes, in order to survive, according to the lawsuit.

In a verdict handed down earlier this month by a Kandiyohi County jury, Rodgers was awarded $10 million for the child’s future medical expenses, $1.7 million for past medical expenses, $1.5 million for future lost earnings and $10 million for disability, emotional distress and pain.

Many research studies are underway and new therapies are being developed for infants with cerebral palsy.  Nevertheless, many children are still born with this condition and its spectrum of disabilities.  When these injuries are the result of medical negligence by physicians, hospitals and/or other health care providers, the civil litigation system is there to provide for these special needs children.  Contrary to politically-charged statements by those on the right, juries do understand when these life-altering injuries are caused by negligence.  When they do and the care needs are properly presented, verdicts such as this in Minnesota are the proper result.