Early intervention vital in treating cerebral palsy

Cerebral Palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood.

OAKLAND PARK, Fla. – Cerebral Palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood.

It affects the ability to move and maintain posture and balance, but early intervention can improve the lives of those with C.P.

When Erika Etzo was pregnant with her first child Charlie, she noticed late in her term that he wasn’t moving as much in utero.

“So I ended up going, just to be safe, to the hospital and they said that the baby was in distress and we had to get him out right away,” Etzo said.

While he initially appeared to be fine, Charlie failed to meet key milestones as he grew.

“He wasn’t rolling over, at six months he wasn’t sitting up,” Etzo said.

An M.R.I. Revealed Charlie had brain damage which could have happened before or during birth.

“Cerebral Palsy is a medical word that describes kids with a lot of different ability and really at the core of the definition it’s a static injury to the brain, so it’s a non-progressive pathology of the brain,” said Dr. Monica Arroyo, a fetal and neonatal neurologist with Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.

Arroyo said C.P. Is typically diagnosed during the first or second year after birth but in some cases even a few years later if the symptoms are mild.

“We’re always very mindful and careful because children can change a lot in that first year or two so even though severe cases you can confidently diagnose maybe after six months, you can still change your abilities,” Arroyo said.

Etzo and her husband Joseph are doing what they can to help Charlie with the challenges he faces.

Now three-and-a-half years old, Charlies goes through daily physical, occupational and speech therapy and is making slow, but consistent progress.

“I really hope he can live an independent life and I really hope he’s happy,” Etzo said.

The CDC estimates that about one in every 345 children in the U.S. has cerebral palsy.

There are many federal and non-profit programs focused on supporting these children from birth through adulthood.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.