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Cerebral Palsy: Early Intervention Can Make a Difference

April 19, 2021

Studies have shown that early intervention programs influence the development of children with or at high risk for cerebral palsy. A recent review of such studies concluded that early interventions in toddlers and infants with or at high risk for the condition are beneficial. Interventions are strategies used to support the normal development of children. Early interventions refer to strategies applied in the first or second year of a child’s life.

Findings of the Review

The review examined more than 40 studies conducted from 2009 that utilized early interventions. The children involved were aged three and below. In the studies, the interventions applied included physical training to aid weaker limbs, enriched home environments with cognitive and motor challenges, and intensive therapies aimed at achieving specific goals.

The authors of the review found that the early interventions were most beneficial when families made the therapies, as well as enriching toys, part of their children’s everyday lives. Data from the analysis of the studies suggest that early intervention offers greater benefits than later intervention.

The Case for Early Interventions

Studies identified the early signs and risk factors that help diagnose cerebral palsy earlier and more accurately. Early identification and diagnosis give specialists a chance to use early interventions to reduce later complications and symptoms.

Researchers found interventions for brain injuries to be most effective during the first six months. In this period, the neurons in a baby’s spine are still developing. This phase of intervention can help prevent some of the disabilities that children with brain injuries might develop later. The use of interventions at six months was not common but is increasingly becoming adopted.

Although later interventions can still be useful, their effectiveness is likely to be limited. More intense stimulation and therapies may be needed to help children with cerebral palsy at a later age. Additionally, secondary complications like deformities and contractures may impede later interventions. These further strengthen the case for intervention during the early years of life.

Children who were free from dysfunction early in life can grow into functional deficit as they become older because of the age-related increase in the complexity of neural functions. The brain’s developmental changes during the first year of life offer an opportunity for intervention. Early intervention takes advantage of the developing brain’s extremely adaptive features. As a result, it can significantly delay or prevent the advancement of secondary complications.

The analysis of the studies gives researchers more insight into the impact early intervention can have on children with cerebral palsy. When combined with better recognition of risk factors and early detection, early interventions and treatments can make a significant difference in the lives of children with cerebral palsy.

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