Psychological Aspect of Cerebral Palsy

The brain is the ultimate control center of the body; the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. There are an abundance of disorders that affect the ability of the brain to function properly, to send messages to the spinal chord and out to the rest of the body. One such disorder is called Cerebral Palsy, a term used for a group of disorders that impair the control of movement. If you break apart the term you have cerebral, meaning anything to do with the brain’s two halves and palsy, meaning anything to do with movement. This narrows down what is known of cerebral palsy; a disorder that affects the motor areas of the brain causing the inability to control movement and posture (Overview 1). Cerebral Palsy is also known as static encephalopathy, it occurs in most cases before birth, during birth, or in a short time period after birth (Joseph F. Smith Medical Library 1). Most children who have Cerebral Palsy, known as CP for short have trouble walking, talking, eating and even playing because their movements are impaired. “It is important to know that CP is not a disease or illness. It isn’t contagious and it doesn’t get worse, but it is not something you ‘grow out of.’ Children who have CP will have it all their lives,” (University at Virginia 1).

The muscles of a person with Cerebral Palsy need to continuously be exercised and kept in movement otherwise they could become tight and rigid or extremely loose. If this were to happen the person could loose balance and muscle coordination easily. In most cases of Cerebral Palsy a person is affected primarily in their legs, paraplegia or diplegia, or in the arm and leg of one side of the body, hemiplegia. In some cases all of the limbs are affected by the damage that has been done to the brain, quadriplegia. But, this is not the only aspects of Cerebral Palsy. There are other disorders that can accompany Cerebral Palsy, disorders that have to do with the brain and its varying abilities. For example, if the corpus callosum does not send the correct signals or is not efficient enough because of the affect of Cerebral Palsy a person can end up having seizures. Also, associated with Cerebral Palsy are such disorders like Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) and/or Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)(Joseph F. Smith Medical Library 1). These are all disabilities that apply to a part of the brain that has been affected in a negative way, thus Cerebral Palsy takes on a psychological viewpoint.

As part of the psychological viewpoint of Cerebral Palsy, viewing the causes and symptoms show how the brain is affected. The brain is the control center of the body and what causes Cerebral Palsy is damage done to the motor control areas of the brain. In these motor control areas the neurons are most likely dead and thus cannot send the appropriate signals to the corresponding part of the body; in this case the muscles controlling movement. This brain damage can be caused by numerous things: infection in the brain, trauma, malnutrition, drugs or other such chemicals, brain hemorrhage or lack of oxygen (asphyxia) which could happen by the umbilical chord wrapping around the baby’s throat and cutting off the supply of oxygen, (Joseph F. Smith Medical Library 1). “In most cases it is impossible to determine the actual cause, although prematurity is recognized as a significant risk factor,” (Joseph F. Smith Medical Library 1). The same incident that affects the motor areas can also affect other areas of the brain causing other symptoms. For example, if brain cells do not get enough oxygen they can die causing other problems, impairment of speech, learning disabilities and so on. Cerebral Palsy ultimately is caused by damage to the brain tissue, connections between nerve cells or other important aspects that apply to the brain and its control of the muscle movement of the body. Also, the brain is considered a significant part of psychology, it conducts and intermediates various aspects of human life.

Cerebral Palsy is not noticeable at birth, which is a generality for most psychological disorders. The symptoms of Cerebral Palsy show up within the beginning 18 months of a child’s life. Children with Cerebral Palsy develop throughout their life like any other child except at a slower rate due to their motor impairments. For example, a child will sit well unsupported at 6 months but with Cerebral Palsy they sit well at 8 to 10 months, babbling usually occurs at 6 months but with Cerebral Palsy it occurs at 8 months or so, a baby with Cerebral Palsy will crawl at 12 months when normal babies crawl at about 9 months. Also, at 9 months a baby can finger feed and hold a bottle, but a child with Cerebral Palsy is capable of those feats at 12 months, usually a baby can walk alone at 12 months but a baby with Cerebral Palsy is capable of walking alone anywhere from 15 months to 18 months. But, not just physical movement of the body is affected, such things as speech are affected, for example a baby can usually speak more than one or two words at 12 months, while a child with Cerebral Palsy can at 15 months. “Children do not consistently favor one hand over the other before 18 months, and doing so may be a sign that the child has difficulty using the other hand,” (Joseph F. Smith Medical Library 2). Looking at the psychological viewpoint of Cerebral Palsy, it does not consist only of motor impairment, muscle control and so on. It also consists of other problems like mental retardation that can range anywhere from mild to severe.

Throughout the world there are an abundance of children with Cerebral Palsy, varying in different degrees of severity. Part of their brain is damaged and leaves them with loss of control. Some begin to wonder if Cerebral Palsy does not just affect a child physically but also mentally. This is true, numerous studies have been conducted that show evidence supporting the fact that Cerebral Palsy is not just a distinct disorder dealing with muscle impairment but it also affects the child psychologically. “About one-fourth to one-half of children with CP also have some type of learning problem,” (University at Virginia 4). The learning disability could just mean that the child has difficulty learning one or more subjects but can still learn other things with ease or it can mean they are mentally retarded and learn everything much slower than regular. Also, people with Cerebral Palsy can have abnormal activity in their brains, known as seizures. “About half of all children with CP have seizures. This means that they have times when there is some abnormal activity in their brains that interrupts what they are doing. Often, the abnormal brain activity happens in the same place as the brain injury that caused the CP,” (University at Virginia 4). The brain controls so many aspects of everyday life, aspects that normally do not need to be thought about, things such as breathing, moving, keeping the heart pumping, all relayed by messages sent from the brain to the body which are somehow disturbed bringing on a seizure. When a child who has Cerebral Palsy has seizures they can also impair the intellectual development of that person; their attentiveness to the outside world, activity and behavior, and vision and hearing, (Overview 2).

The motor areas of the brain are not always the only areas that are affected by the injury that causes Cerebral Palsy, the visual cortex and auditory cortex can also be affected in some cases. “A large number of children with cerebral palsy have strabismus, a condition in which the eyes are not aligned because of differences in the left and right eye muscles,” (Overview 3).

Looking at the picture above, the eye on the right strays to the side, this is strabismus. As a child, they adapt and can eventually ignore signals from the brain to their misaligned eyes. If it were to go untreated it would cause blurry vision and impairment in the child’s ability to judge distance making it hard to do a lot of normal childhood things. A child may also experience maladjustment in their perception and sensation, two major factors that link to psychology and how a person views the world, how their mind works. If a child has Cerebral Palsy they cannot feel certain things, they cannot take in sensations like touch and pain. “They may also have stereognosia, or difficulty perceiving and identifying objects using the sense of touch,” (Overview 4). This distorts the child’s outlook of the world because simple objects like a basketball would be unrecognizable to them. Their schemas would be altered; they would be different than other children because they would learn differently.

There are varying types of Cerebral Palsy, each affected by a different part of the brain. Spastic Cerebral Palsy is when a child has muscle tone that is too tight or too high. Children with this type of Cerebral Palsy are characterized by stiff, jerky movements. Children with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy have low muscle tone and poor coordination. Children with this type of Cerebral Palsy are characterized as unsteady and shaky. The last type of Cerebral Palsy is Athetoid Cerebral Palsy which is when muscle tone is mixed, too high or too low. Children with this type of Cerebral Palsy have difficulty keeping themselves upright and they make random involuntary movements in their face. Thus, in Cerebral Palsy the frontal lobe of the brain which controls judgment and personality is affected. The parietal lobe is also affected because is contains the motor cortex which is the most severely affected part of the brain in Cerebral Palsy. Also, the occipital lobe is affected when Cerebral Palsy can affect the vision of a person because the visual cortex is located at the back, bottom of the brain in the occipital lobe. And the temporal lobe can be involved in some cases, when the auditory cortex is affected. Thus, all parts of the brain are affected in Cerebral Palsy, depending on the varying degrees of severity.

Since Cerebral Palsy affects all aspects of the brain, it also affects many aspects of life, taking it from a psychological viewpoint. It is difficult for people or children to communicate when they have Cerebral Palsy. “Poor coordination of the tongue and mouth muscles can also affect speech. The inability to be understood can influence the child’s intellectual developmentâÂ?¦” (Joseph F. Smith Medical Library 7). In most cases there are devices that can help a child with Cerebral Palsy, speech devices, computer programs and also speech therapists. Pictures and labels are also used to help a child identify and link certain things together, this involves the perception and interpretation of objects and how they apply to situations in life. A child with Cerebral Palsy may need to seek alternative education if their mental impairment is at a certain level and thus they need to be psychologically treated differently than other children because they are labeled as “different”.

One of the most well known people in psychology today was the person to propose that Cerebral Palsy has something to do with lack of oxygen in the brain. In the 1860’s Cerebral Palsy was thought to be caused by prematurity or complications during birth. They characterized the disorder as something dealing with the contractions of muscle movement being stiff and weak in the beginning months of a baby’s life. “Noting that children with cerebral palsy often had other problems such as mental retardation, visual disturbances, and seizures, Freud suggested that the disorder might sometimes have roots earlier in life, during the brain’s development in the womb,” (Press Room/Facts and Figures 3). He said that complications during birth, or difficulty during birth only added to the problems that showed up later on in a child who has Cerebral Palsy’s life. Thus, Sigmund Freud was right; the lack of oxygen to the brain caused brain tissue to damage and therefore caused abnormalities in the child with muscle movement and coordination. They were diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and were treated for a disorder dealing with the brain and body. A disease dealing with the body was what it was initially thought to be, a somatoform disorder but later on it was concluded that it does consist of both the body and the brain.

Cerebral Palsy is also known as “Katherine Dillon Child Psychology Cerebral Palsy” linking it to the brain and the body through a psychological view. Cerebral Palsy is not just a disorder that is physical in nature, is effects the person mentally, distorting perception, interpretation and other such processes dealing with the child’s outside environment. True, the child is impaired physically but their brain is what is affected, the major control center of the body. Thus, if the brain is affected then the muscle movement cannot be the only aspect of a person that is affected by Cerebral Palsy. For example, the vision is affected, the hearing is affected and intellectual development is slowed down considerable or is associated with a learning disability. The brain is the factor that relates to all psychological viewpoints in the world today and thus it relates to Cerebral Palsy. The neurons in the brain lack the impulses to convey messages throughout the body to certain muscles. If the neurons on the right side of the brain are the ones lacking then the left side of the body is limp and does not function as well as the right side of the body due to the damage done to the left brain and vice versa. This helps to support that Cerebral Palsy is not just a disorder dealing with the physical body of a person but it is a disorder dealing with the psychological aspect of the person.

There are many frequently asked questions about Cerebral Palsy; questions such as:
âÂ?¢ “What are the factors that predispose the developing fetal brain to injury? Can these factors be eliminated or minimized?
� What are the causes of injury to the developing fetal brain? Can the developing fetal and newborn brain be protected? What are the causes of developmental delays and failure to thrive?
� Why are low birth weight in the full-term and the premature infant important risk factors for cerebral palsy?
� Can cerebral palsy be diagnosed before birth and better diagnosed shortly after birth?
� Which available treatments are most effective for specific disabilities of persons with cerebral palsy?
� Based on new knowledge now available in the medical, surgical, behavioral and bioengineering sciences, what improvements can be made in the quality of life of people with cerebral palsy?
� What are the effects of aging on a person with disabilities due to cerebral palsy?
âÂ?¢ Can the damaged brain be ‘repaired’?”
(Press Room /Facts and Figures 6).
These questions facilitate the physical root of Cerebral Palsy but also the psychological root too. The brain is the major control center of the body and is an important part of psychology, dealing with perception, mental set, phonemes, morphemes and so on. Phonemes are the basic units of sound for all languages, the building blocks of language if you will. They progress into morphemes which are the smallest units of speech that relay meaning. If a child has Cerebral Palsy they have difficulty with phonemes and morphemes, it takes them longer to learn them and to decipher the phonemes of their language. Thus, the rate at which they talk will take much longer than a normal child. They begin with words such as “ga ga” and “goo goo” but they will not move on at the rate predictable to children who are born normal and healthy. They take longer because the muscles in their mouth are either too tight and rigid, too loose and spastic or they have too high of a muscle tone or too low of a muscle tone. Hence, they need to work harder in order to be able to reach the level of capacity and learning that a regular child has. Then, once they have mastered the phonemes they can begin the morphemes and learn the meaning behind them, but that will also take them a longer time to learn and thus, throughout their whole life they will be moving along in their development slower than others, and yet they can still be just as smart and just as capable of certain things. This disorder is not fatal if treated, all that is needed is different types of therapists: physical therapists, speech therapists and often times psychologists. This disorder is not only physical but one of mental origin too.

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