Doctors and specialists for cerebral palsy
In order to diagnose cerebral palsy, cerebral palsy doctors and other specialists will evaluate your child’s condition.
Cerebral palsy symptoms can vary from mild to severe and may mimic other movement or neurological disorders. Identifying the cause of these symptoms can be a challenge for general doctors and parents since they often take months or even years to notice.
Consulting health care professionals with different areas of expertise can be helpful in diagnosing cerebral palsy since these specialists can rule out co-existing conditions (such as autism or epilepsy) as the primary diagnosis. In fact, there are several types of cerebral palsy specialist doctors that will be able diagnose your child’s condition.
Types of cerebral palsy specialists include:
- Developmental behavioral specialists
- Physical, occupational, and speech therapists
Creating a care team that consists of these doctors and specialists can help your child receive the most effective treatment for their specific diagnosis.
Pediatricians for cerebral palsy
Your child’s pediatrician will play an important role in diagnosing early signs of cerebral palsy. Pediatricians are responsible for observing your child’s physical and neurological development to ensure they are on the right track for their age. Children are typically screened for developmental disabilities at 9, 18, and 24 months.
Talk to your pediatric specialist if you have noticed your child missing any important developmental milestones such as rolling over, crawling, sitting, standing, or speaking.
Pediatricians may ask questions about your child’s development, such as:
- Is your child holding their head up?
- Is your child rolling over on their own?
- Is your child visually and audibly alert?
- Is your child able to sit on their own?
- Is your child crawling within the appropriate time frame?
- Is your child walking within the appropriate time frame?
- Is your child picking up small items on their own?
Your child's primary care doctor can assess your child’s posture, reflexes, and muscle tone regularly to find and monitor any delays.
If your pediatrician determines that your child is not meeting important developmental milestones, they will likely give referrals to a specialist that will be able to further observe your child’s condition. Developmental behavioral specialists, geneticists, neurologists, and orthopedic surgeons will likely be recommended for further examination.
Developmental behavioral specialists for cerebral palsy
Developmental behavioral specialists evaluate developmental, cognitive, and behavioral issues in children with cerebral palsy. These specialists are able to provide treatment options to children who are not meeting important developmental milestones.
Common conditions relating to cerebral palsy that developmental behavioral specialists treat include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Feeding issues
- Incontinence issues
- Sleep disorders
Developmental behavioral specialists often work with a team of medical professionals to form a diagnosis and treatment plan that will cater to your child’s needs. Having access to this extended medical team will ensure that there is a specialist nearby who can help improve your child’s development.
Developmental behavioral specialists usually practice in hospitals, major medical centers, clinics, rehabilitation centers, community centers, and schools.
Geneticists for cerebral palsy
The link between cerebral palsy and genetics is still being widely researched today. Recent studies from The Centre for Applied Genomics at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children show that at least one out of every 10 cases of cerebral palsy likely has an underlying genetic cause.
Parents and caregivers will often question how their child developed cerebral palsy and if it could have been prevented. Although the majority of cases of cerebral palsy are a result of a brain injury during the childbirth process, geneticists can give insight into what may have caused the condition to occur.
If there are no obvious signs of birth trauma, a cerebral palsy doctor may want to get a closer look at your child’s genetic make-up. Geneticists will look over your child’s genetic code and determine if there are any underlying genetic factors that led to the development of cerebral palsy.
A study by the Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital found that mutations or misspellings in the genetic code of a specific gene (FRRS1L) led to cerebral palsy in some children.
A geneticist will be able to take a detailed look into your child’s individual DNA strands to determine if any mutations occurred that could have led to their condition.
Neurologists for cerebral palsy
Neurology specialists play a very important role in the cerebral palsy diagnosis process. A cerebral palsy neurologist will be able to identify areas of brain damage and whether your child’s brain is sending the appropriate signals to the rest of the body.
Neurologists for cerebral palsy will examine your child’s posture, motor function, speech, muscle tone, strength, senses, reflexes, and coordination. They may also use various imaging tests to find the causes, severity, and type of cerebral palsy.
These imaging tests include:
- Computerized tomography (CT scan)
- Cranial ultrasounds
- Electroencephalogram (EEG)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
You may consider seeing a neurologist specializing in cerebral palsy if you notice your child is struggling with muscle movement, coordination, and meeting developmental milestones. Once a pediatric neurologist examines your child, they will be able to rule out any other movement disorders and create a plan to effectively treat your child’s condition.
Therapists for continued care of cerebral palsy
Continued care for cerebral palsy may require various therapists with different specialities. The type of therapy recommended for your child can depend on their type and severity of cerebral palsy.
Therapy can help to relieve your child’s cerebral palsy symptoms and improve their overall health. Therapists can also help children become more independent by improving their ability to complete daily tasks and communicate effectively.
Cerebral palsy doctors can recommend several types of therapy that can be tailored to your child’s specific needs such as speech, occupational, physical, stem cell, and alternative therapies.
Speech therapy is a very common treatment method for cerebral palsy since more than half of children with the condition experience speech issues.
Speech therapy can help with articulation, word comprehension, stuttering, vocabulary development, and more. A cerebral palsy specialist may recommend speech therapy to strengthen overall communication skills so your child can approach daily interactions with confidence.
Occupational therapists will help children practice daily tasks such as eating or picking up small objects with specialized equipment. These practices encourage self-sufficiency and help transition children into adulthood.
Physical therapists will utilize special equipment and assistive devices to aid children in a combination of exercises and muscle relaxing techniques to treat spasticity or contractures.
The focus of physical therapy for younger children is to become more active and play, whereas older children focus more on improving motor control and movement.
Stem Cell Therapy for CPStem cell therapy is a newer form of therapy that aims to treat cerebral palsy by replacing damaged cells and supporting healthy cells in the brains of patients with cerebral palsy.
There are many different types of stem cells, such as adult stem cells from umbilical cord tissue as well as embryonic stem cells from human embryos.
Stem cells can be transplanted into the body through an IV or a lumbar puncture. Specialists can modify cells to replace damaged brain cells caused by cerebral palsy. Stem cell therapy is being continuously studied in many clinical trials.
Some common forms of alternative therapies for cerebral palsy include aquatic therapy, music therapy, hippotherapy (horse or equine therapy), and acupuncture.
These types of therapy can expose children to new environments and help to improve physical and neurological symptoms.
Finding doctors and specialists for cerebral palsy
In order to find cerebral palsy doctors in your area, first consult with your pediatrician to discuss which types of cerebral palsy specialists can best treat your child’s symptoms.
Cerebral palsy specialists are crucial in diagnosing, treating, and caring for a child with the condition. Seeking out knowledgeable medical professionals can help your child receive effective treatment and help them live a long and happy life.
Download our free Cerebral Palsy Guide today to learn more about doctors and specialists who can provide life-changing treatment for your child. We have plenty of resources available to your family to ensure your child receives quality care.