This little boy can run well, but walks awkwardly with a characteristic movement pattern of a child with cerebral palsy. If you look for it, there are many children who demonstrate different levels of motor function. I had this graphic developed to capture both of his realities. The important question is, “Which level of function best represents the current status of the brain?”
In my experience, many parents do not know the details of their child’s brain problem. They know terms like PVL or a Grade IV bleed, absence of the corpus callosum or HIE, but each of these terms do not give sufficient information about the extent of damage and more importantly, they do not say what is right about the brain.
I think these are the important questions…
What parts of the brain are undamaged?
What is the age of the child and the potential for recovery?
What can we do to improve the extent of recovery?
Parents and their healthcare team have to understand some very important facts about neuroplasticity.
The first important point is that all human brains have some potential for spontaneous recovery that involves both repair and regrowth of new brain cells. There are techniques, like brain cooling in HIE, that help this process and more are under development. Three R’s of Baby Brain Neuroplasticity
The baby has an advantage over a person with later brain damage as there is exuberant neuroplasticity in the first 4 to 6 years of life. Neuroplasticity is life long, but baby brain neuroplasticity is an added advantage. The results of early hemispherectomy demonstrate just how much reorganization and reallocation of resources is actually available. What Can You Do With Half a Brain?
So, the child who first learns to walk with a damaged, immature brain has the potential of learning better movement patterns with a brain that has had some recovery and is more mature. The normal running pattern tells us that his brain has had great recovery that we can build upon.
We demonstrate this brain potential by careful observation as the child is challenged by novel experiences. Demonstrating Brain Potential
We can help them by providing support to alignment. What Do I Do First?
And we can see rapid change with out of gravity experiences like water exercise with a neutral buoyancy garment like a Wet Vest. Water Exercise for Children with Cerebral Palsy
I would like to hear your experiences of children who do better than was expected in the early days. I feel it is important to give new parents real hope in some of their darkest days.