Ann Arbor birth injury lawyer discusses an incredible therapy program for children with cerebral palsy: brain remapping

A little boy with severe cerebral palsy was not able to talk, walk crawl or sit without help at 3 years of age.  Sonny Pickett was born in Ann Arbor with a birth injury at just 30 weeks of gestation.  The doctors delivered him with a risky delivery instrument called forceps, which look like salad tongs and are used to pull the baby’s head – and the baby – out of the birth canal.  When Sonny was finally delivered, he was limp and unresponsive.  He was suffering from respiratory distress and had to be put on a breathing machine called a ventilator.  Sonny’s traumatic delivery, birth injuries and breathing problems caused him to suffer brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen to his brain at birth.  This type of brain injury is called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), and it often causes cerebral palsy, which is what Sonny was diagnosed with soon after birth.

Sonny’s parents were extremely worried about him because he couldn’t roll over, sit up or even control his head or eat a full meal as a small child.  The little boy failed to meet most developmental milestones.  The concerned parents decided to try a new program called PACE which offers specialized education for children with motor disorders such as cerebral palsy.  The PACE program focuses on retraining or remapping the brains of children with cerebral palsy by bypassing damaged areas of the brain and teaching other areas to substitute for the damaged ones.

In the program at three years of age, Sonny started showing improvement right away.  The program “retrains” children’s brains while the brains are still malleable (trainable, meaning they have plasticity) so that some of the uninjured parts learn to take over function of the injured parts.  This is accomplished by repetition.  Using a fun environment, therapists encourage children to carry out the same movements over and over again until the children are able to do the movements.

When Sonny was first born, the doctors gave the parents a very bleak picture of what Sonny’s future would be like.  Now, Sonny is highly motivated and he has made massive achievements since starting the PACE program.  When Sonny knows he has a PACE session coming up, he gets very excited, flashes a huge smile and tries to clap his hands with enthusiasm.  Sonny’s hands used to be in tight fists all the time, but since working with the PACE therapists, he has much greater use of them.

There are numerous therapies and treatments for children with cerebral palsy, and many of these greatly complement each other.  Brain remapping would not work without intense physical therapy.  New surgeries such as selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) have much better results when aggressive physical therapy is performed post-surgery.  Newer, cutting edge treatments such as SDR and brain remapping are commonly used to help children who have spastic cerebral palsy, which is the most common type of CP.


Spastic cerebral palsy affects 70 – 90% of all children who have CP.  In spastic cerebral palsy, the muscles do not coordinate in pairs the way they are supposed to.  Instead of opposing muscles working together to create smooth movement, muscle groups become active at the same time, which prevents coordinated movement.  The muscles in children with spastic cerebral palsy are constantly spastic, and the child has stiff, jerky movements.

The major difference between spastic diplegia (spastic cerebral palsy that mainly affects the lower body) and a normal walking pattern is the “scissor gait,” which is when a child’s knees appear to cross like scissors.


There are many conditions that can occur during or near the time of delivery that, if mismanaged, can cause cerebral palsy.  Most often, these conditions involve a lack of oxygen in the baby’s brain and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).  Improperly managed conditions that can deprive an unborn baby of oxygen include placental abruption, uterine rupture, umbilical cord prolapse, nuchal cord (cord wrapped around the baby’s neck), brain bleeds caused by forceps or vacuum extractors, and failure to recognize fetal distress on the fetal heart rate monitor. Improperly treated neonatal hypoglycemia or jaundice (abnormally high bilirubin), or in infection in the mother that travels to the baby at birth, can also cause cerebral palsy. When a baby is showing signs of distress, it means she is being deprived of oxygen and must be delivered very quickly.  Most of the time, a cesarean (C-section) delivery is the fastest and safest way to deliver a baby who is in distress.


The award winning lawyers at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have been helping children with cerebral palsy in Michigan and throughout the nation for over two decades.  Jesse Reiter, the firm’s co-founder, has been focusing on birth injury cases his entire 25+ year career, and most of Jesse’s cases involve helping children who have cerebral palsy.  When Jesse takes a case, he spends a lot of time getting to know the child and family he is helping so that he can fully understand the child’s needs.  Jesse has won many awards for his advocacy of children, and he is currently recognized as being one of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, as well as one of the 10 Best Attorneys in Michigan by Super Lawyers magazine. Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is also recognized as being one of the best medical malpractice law firms in the country by U.S. News and World Report 2014.

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Cerebral palsy and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) are difficult areas of law to pursue due to the complex nature of the disorders and the medical records that support them. The nationally recognized attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have decades of experience with cerebral palsy and HIE cases. To find out if you have a case, contact our firm to speak with an experienced lawyer.  We handle cases in Michigan, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and throughout the nation.  We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case.  Email or call us at 888-419-2229.  Our firm’s attorneys are available to speak with you 24/7 and we give personal attention to each child and family we help.

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