Photographs: Unsplash / WorldCPDay
Text: Michaela Medveďová & Sara R. Newell
In this month’s issue, we decided to bring more awareness about life with cerebral palsy - and highlight CP Danmark, an organisation that can help support those affected.
For the past ten years, October 6 has been marked in our calendars as World Cerebral Palsy Day - raising awareness about this life-long disability and affirming the lives of more than 17 million people worldwide with cerebral palsy. In Denmark alone, 110 to 130 children are born every year with cerebral palsy, and there are currently about 10 thousand people living with the disability in Denmark. However, the figure worldwide is 17 million.
The annual World Cerebral Palsy Day always comes with a different initiative. This year, the theme is “Millions of Reasons for accessible technology solutions”. Organisers are calling on the cerebral palsy community and their experience to try to combat a world that still isn’t fully accessible to people with special needs - and come up with ideas for better and more accessible technology to inspire research and development of these tools.
What is cerebral palsy, and what are the symptoms?
According to CP Danmark, cerebral palsy is the most frequent cause of movement disability in children and youth. It is caused when damage occurs to the brain. This can happen during pregnancy, birth, or in a newborn’s brain and can have several causes: premature birth, lack of oxygen, bleeding, infections, head injuries, or other causes which are often not discovered.
The symptoms of cerebral palsy are varied. Regarding physical disability, cerebral palsy affects the ability to control muscles and movements. This can take different forms: weakness in limbs, problems with movement, issues with using hands and arms, eating, or speaking.
CP Danmark states three types of cerebral palsy based on the physical symptoms: ataxic, dyskinetic, and spastic, which is the most common - over 70% of cerebral palsy diagnoses are of the spastic type. This type is characterised by joint stiffness, muscle tightness, and jerky movements.
However, cerebral palsy can also cause non-visible symptoms - impaired vision or hearing, or different cognitive difficulties such as problems with learning and concentration, memory, language, and the ability to spatially orient yourself or recognise objects.
While cerebral palsy is a permanent disability, treatment is offered to children born with or developing the condition. The treatment aims to improve their functional possibilities. It can have different forms - from medical treatment of muscles to using orthotic devices, surgery (if deemed necessary), treatment of conditions that accompany cerebral palsy such as epilepsy and vision or hearing impairment, and exercise.
"In Denmark alone, 110 to 130 children are born every year with cerebral palsy, and there are currently about 10 thousand people living with the disability in Denmark. However, the figure worldwide is 17 million."
What organisational support is there?
CP Danmark is an organisation that focuses on improving the conditions and quality of life for people with cerebral palsy - and their families.
They state their purpose clearly: “People with cerebral palsy must have the same opportunities as everyone else to live an active, meaningful, and independent life.” You can become a member to access all the support and counselling CP Danmark provides. As a parent or a guardian, you can also become a member on behalf of your child.
There are several ways CP Danmark goes about fulfilling its purpose:
First, the organisation is politically active on behalf of its members, working to make sure people in Denmark with cerebral palsy have access to education, jobs, institutions, and legislation-mandated support.
They offer counselling and advice for people with cerebral palsy and their relatives. This can happen through telephone, online, and sometimes personal contact. CP Danmark employs a social worker and a psychologist in their panel of specialists.
If you are interested in attending courses about life with cerebral palsy, CP Danmark offers day courses, weekend courses, and four-evening courses on topics like family with cerebral palsy, grandparents of a child with cerebral palsy, clear speech, or cognitive difficulties.
And for youth with cerebral palsy, there’s a sub-organisation called CP Ung that connects young people and focuses on their interests.
To find out more about the campaign for World Cerebral Palsy Day and how you can get involved – visit their website: https://worldcpday.org/