So, What Really Is Cerebral Palsy?

So, What Really Is Cerebral Palsy?

March is Cerebral Palsy awareness month!
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Since March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, I thought I should write a few articles about what Cerebral Palsy (CP) is, and some ways it affects myself and other individuals. Most of this information came from United Cerebral Palsy San Diego. I hope this teaches you something!


So, what really is CP and what causes it?

The term itself is really an umbrella term, but it does actually have a meaning. “Cerebral” is referring to the brain, and “Palsy” refers to muscle weakness/ poor control. The most common causes of CP are a lack of oxygen flow to the brain, prematurity, an accident before, during, or after birth, and so on. Most cases of CP occur while in the womb and can be diagnose right after birth, and other cases will not be diagnosed until months after a baby is born.

How common is CP?

I have always joked that individuals who have Cerebral Palsy could make up a little country. (as someone who has CP, I'm allowed to make those types of jokes.) According to United Cerebral Palsy San Diego, "It is estimated that some 764,000 children and adults in the United States manifest one or more of the symptoms of cerebral palsy. Currently, about 8,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with the condition each year. In addition, some 1,200 - 1,500 preschool age children are recognized each year to have cerebral palsy. "

Are there different types of CP?

There are five types of CP, but today doctors classify the disorder into three subcategories — spastic, athetoid, and ataxic, a fourth category can be a mix of all three. These categories are based on how much an individual can or cannot move.

Spastic — affects 70-80 percent of individuals causing muscles contract and stiffen. Usually, doctors will diagnose what type of spastic CP their patients have based off of which side of their body, or which limbs are mostly affected. For example, spastic diplegia means that both of the individual's legs are impacted, or left hemiparesis which means the entire left side of the body of the body is impacted.

Athetoid (dyskinetic) characterized by its slow uncontrolled movements, Athetoid cerebral palsy affects about 10 to 20 percent of patients. These movements usually body parts such as the hands, arms, and legs. In some cases, the muscles of the face and tongue can also be impacted, which results in the individual grimacing or drooling. Individuals who have this type of CP, may also Patients may also have problems coordinating the muscle movements needed for speech, a condition known as dysarthria.

Ataxic This type of CP is rarer than the others it only affects 5-10 percent of individuals who are diagnosed with the disorder. A person's sense of balance and depth perception can be greatly impacted. In addition, these individuals may have trouble doing activities of daily living such as buttoning buttons on a shirt. They may also have an intention tremor. This is exactly as it sounds. An intention tremor occurs when an individual reaches for an object or does something as simple as turning a page in a book. When their desired page, or object is reached, then the tremor or shaking intensifies.

Mixed forms In some cases, an individual can have a mixture of two types of CP, the most common are a combination of spasticity and athetoid movements, but it is possible to have a combination of any of the three types mentioned.

How does CP affect everyone differently?

Remember, there are many types and it affects no two people the same way. Two people can both have spastic cerebral palsy, and different areas of their bodies can be affected. One person may be more functioning than another person, but could have an issue with their speech.

Can it be prevented?

According to United Cerebral Palsy San Diego, "Preventive programs are directed towards the prevention of prematurity; reducing exposure of pregnant women to virus and other infections; recognition and treatment of bacterial infection of the maternal reproductive and urinary tracts; avoiding unnecessary exposure to X-rays, drugs and medications; and the control of diabetes, anemia and nutritional deficiencies. Of great importance are optimal well being prior to conception, adequate prenatal care, and protecting infants from accidents or injury. "

Is there a cure?

As of now, there is no cure for Cerebral Palsy. Going to OT, PT, and Speech can help manage cognition, language, and build up strength in muscles, and work on some defciencies mentioned above in the types of Cerebral Palsy.

Cover Image Credit: Pediatric Brain Foundation

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won’t see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won’t laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won’t go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They’ll miss you. They’ll cry.

You won’t fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won’t get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won’t be there to wipe away your mother’s tears when she finds out that you’re gone.

You won’t be able to hug the ones that love you while they’re waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won’t be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won’t find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won’t celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won’t turn another year older.

You will never see the places you’ve always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You’ll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it’s not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don’t let today be the end.

You don’t have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It’s not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I’m sure you’re no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won’t do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you’ll be fine.” Because when they aren’t, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

For help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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The Issue With Disability Representation In The Media

Not all things that are seen are to be believed.

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We've seen tons of films and television shows with characters with various physical and mental conditions, especially in recent years. Shaun Murphy in "The Good Doctor," who has autism, is a good example. Or, how about Eddie Redmayne, who earned a 2015 academy award for portraying Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," or Jacob Tremblay as a child with a facial deformity in "Wonder."

Look at that representation, there's nothing that needs to be changed!

Or is there?

The three actors I mentioned in that opening paragraph have two things in common. First, they portrayed a character with some form of disability. Second, they don't actually have the condition themselves. Can you see this picture I'm painting for you? Disabilities are being represented in the media, but people with disabilities are not.

A study in 2016 found that of the 2% of characters on television with some sort of physical or mental disability, 95% are being portrayed by abled actors. There is nothing worse than false representation, and this is the exact definition. And since the study also found that 20% of the American population has some sort of disability, way more than the 2% currently being represented on television, why don't we cast actual disabled actors for these parts to even out the ratio?

There are a ton of actors with disabilities, all of whom I'm sure would be more than willing to take part in acting… you know, since they are actors. Ability is not even a question, and if it is, it would be adding to the stigma that those with disabilities are less than human. The best thing is, these actors truly know what it's like to have the disability that they are portraying, unlike someone who will never know what it's like, no matter how much they try.

But isn't acting about being someone you're not? Why aren't doctors on T.V. played by real doctors, then?

They aren't being played by real doctors because real doctors are real doctors. They have a career… they aren't actors. Disability is something that, more often than not, is a piece of their identity, like someone's race or gender. There's a reason why blackface is wrong, but why isn't the same thing being said about disability?

What about marketability?

The media has become an industry that focuses more and more on the profit their film or T.V. show makes, and less and less the art that is being produced. But, if marketability is an important factor, how about creating a marketing campaign based on the fact that an actor with a disability is actually playing the part? Or putting a big-named actor into a supporting role (as long as they're not playing a "savior" part).

There is so much more that needs to be changed regarding how the media portrays people with disabilities, the topic of this article being a tiny aspect of this "representation." And this doesn't just happen with films and television shows dealing with disability, but with the lack of gay or transgender people actually being played by gay and transgender actors, or white actors being shoehorned into films or television shows about people of color.

There's a lot to do, but there's a way to get there… you must simply implement the change.

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