Are you a parent who suspects their child may have very mild cerebral palsy?
Very mild cerebral palsy occurs when the amount of damage to the brain is so slight that the motor impairments may go unrecognized in the early years of childhood.
However, as children with mild cerebral palsy tend to grow up, they may notice some abnormal motor impairments.
This article will go over the various signs of cerebral palsy and explain the best ways to manage them.
Signs of Very Mild Cerebral Palsy
Lots of different factors can affect what cerebral palsy looks like in your child.
In fact, if you look at a picture of a child with very mild cerebral palsy and one without disability, you probably wouldn’t be able to figure out with one is which.
Generally, very mild cerebral palsy isn’t noticeable until the child is moving around.
Signs of mild cerebral palsy include:
- Abnormal walking (walking on toes, walking on heels, continuous bending of the knees, walking with toes pointing inwards or outward, slight limping, etc.)
- Difficulty with fine motor skills
- Difficulties speaking or eating
- Slow movements
- Stiff movements
- Poor balance and coordination
- Poor posture
- Leaning/tilting towards one side
Forms of Mild Cerebral Palsy
Mild describes the severity of cerebral palsy, but there are various forms of cerebral palsy that can be very mild. This primarily is based on the location of the brain damage.
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of cerebral palsy and is caused by damage to the motor cortex. It’s characterized by high muscle tone, which makes movements stiff.
Children can be affected in the legs, only one side of their body, all over, or even in only 1 limb.
Dyskinetic cerebral palsy occurs when there’s damage to the basal ganglia. It results in uncontrollable movements due to the muscle fluctuating between stiff and floppy.
Ataxic cerebral palsy occurs when there’s damage to the cerebellum and is characterized by poor balance and coordination.
Some children can even have mixed cerebral palsy and have a combination of symptoms from each type of CP.
The Downside to Very Mild Cerebral Palsy
While it’s definitely a blessing for your child to have very mild cerebral palsy, the downside is that it can go unnoticed and therefore untreated for years.
Early intervention is key for reducing the secondary effects of cerebral palsy like chronic pain and poor nutrition.
When your child grows up with very mild cerebral palsy, the muscle tightness, poor balance, or lack of motor control has had a long time to manifest.
Your child may not realize that whatever they’re doing is abnormal because it’s all they’ve ever known.
Therefore, it becomes much more difficult to replace these habits.
Spasticity is the continuous contracting of muscles that causes movements to become stiff.
It’s present in up to 80% of people with cerebral palsy and is the underlying cause of many complications of CP like chronic pain, disproportional growth, and abnormal gait.
Spasticity is one of the biggest threats for people with very mild cerebral palsy because although cerebral palsy does not get worse over time, spasticity can.
One of the most effective treatments for managing very mild cerebral palsy is utilizing orthotics.
It’s essential that you fix your child’s form before encouraging them to continue walking. Walking with an abnormal gait only reinforces poor walking habits.
If your child has spasticity in their legs, a brace will help hold the leg in place.
This will help lengthen the muscle by gently stretching and preventing the leg from coiling up.
It will also help strengthen your leg muscles as it passively resists against the contraction.
Physicians will inject Botox into spastic muscles to help relieve high muscle tone.
Botox works by blocking overactive nerve signals for temporary spasticity relief. The injection typically lasts for a few months before the muscles start to tighten again.
Children with very mild cerebral palsy will benefit from Botox because it allows them to practice moving correctly and strengthen underused muscles.
Just like Botox, baclofen is a medication that can relax spastic muscles.
It can be taken orally, injected, or pumped directly to the spinal cord.
Generally, children with very mild cerebral palsy will not get a baclofen pump because it requires surgery and regular refills.
It’s important that your child is taking the right dose of baclofen. Too much can work as a sedative and cause dizziness or fatigue.
The effects of baclofen typically only last a few hours and need to be taken regularly.
Physical therapy is going to help your child strengthen their muscles and learn proper form.
When you teach a child with very mild cerebral palsy to walk correctly, they’ll typically be able to show you but resort back to their previous gait pattern.
The only way to replace this habit is to have your child constantly practice walking the right way and strengthening that new set of neural pathways.
Physical therapy will help guide your child and find ways to motivate them to perform lots of repetitions.
Living with Very Mild Cerebral Palsy
That’s a wrap! Very mild cerebral palsy may not seem like a big deal, but it’s important to learn how to manage it in order to prevent future complications.
Hopefully, this article helped you better understand the signs of very mild cerebral palsy and what you can do about it.
Early intervention is key, so make sure to see a doctor for an official diagnosis. Good luck!