Cerebral Palsy: A Guide | Pennsylvania Cerebral Palsy Attorneys
The Pennsylvania cerebral palsy attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers hope to help the parents of children with cerebral palsy gain the information and resources they need to know that their children will be cared for, no matter what. Whether you’re located in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Erie, Lancaster, Harrisburg, or another Pennsylvania town, we’re here to walk you through your questions. A cerebral palsy diagnosis is often accompanied by many unanswered questions, and parents can sometimes find it difficult to know where to start. While the following information is by no means comprehensive, it can be a good starting point for the beginning of a deeper search for answers.
- What is cerebral palsy?
- What causes cerebral palsy?
- How can cerebral palsy be prevented?
- How do I get legal help to pay for my child’s cerebral palsy care?
- How do I get financial or medical help for my child with cerebral palsy in Pennsylvania?
- How can I get my child educational help or early intervention in Pennsylvania?
- Where can I find employment resources for individuals with cerebral palsy in Pennsylvania?
- Other useful cerebral palsy and disability resources in Pennsylvania
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive motor disorder, which means the injury that caused the disorder doesn’t get worse with time. Cerebral palsy can cause limited motor skills and difficulties with coordination, balance, tremors. It can also cause repetitive movement patterns and tight and/or painful joints. In cerebral palsy, the nerve signals that usually communicate with the muscles to signal when to tighten or relax act incorrectly, causing the muscles to be abnormally tight. There are multiple kinds of cerebral palsy, and they can look somewhat different:
- Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by muscle tightness, spasms, and involuntary muscle contractions.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy is characterized by very low muscle tension and tremors.
- Athetoid cerebral palsy manifests itself in a mixed muscle tone and involuntary movement, which can make upright posture difficult.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is caused by brain injury to the motor control centers, the parts of the brain that control movement. The underlying cause of this brain injury is not known in a subset of cases, but cerebral palsy is often strongly associated with birth injury resulting from medical malpractice. Conditions that can cause or contribute to brain damage that triggers cerebral palsy includes:
- Infections during pregnancy
- Infections transmitted during childbirth
- Jaundice, hyperbilirubinemia, and kernicterus
- Head trauma during labor
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
- Umbilical cord length issues, or cord compression or prolapse
- Failure to perform a C-section in a timely fashion
- Prolonged or stalled labor
- Low birth weight
- Breech or face presentation at birth
- Vaginal bleeding in late pregnancy
While cerebral palsy is purely a motor disorder, there are some conditions that can co-occur with cerebral palsy, such as intellectual, developmental, learning or sensory disabilities or disorders. Mild or moderate intellectual impairment occurs in ⅔ of cerebral palsy patients. Seizures are also sometimes common (in up to half of people with cerebral palsy).
How Can Cerebral Palsy be Prevented?
Cerebral palsy cases associated with medical malpractice are by definition caused by a medical mistake. Medical errors are preventable, and they occur when a medical staff member deviates from the standards of care they should adhere to when providing medical care to a patient. Prevention of medical errors is a complex topic but generally involves medical staffers understanding and applying standards of care properly, and ensuring good communication between the medical staff responsible for a patient’s care.
How Do I Get Legal Help to Pay for My Child’s Cerebral Palsy Care?
Because medical malpractice can often play a strong causative role in a child’s cerebral palsy, if you have any concerns regarding the role that a medical mistake may have played in your child’s development, it is critical to bring them up in a timely fashion with Pennsylvania cerebral palsy attorneys. If a parent attempts to file a suit after the statute of limitations has expired, the lawsuit cannot go forward, so it is critical to proceed in a timely fashion.
The Pennsylvania cerebral palsy attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers focus solely on birth injuries, unlike other firms that split their attention between such topics as birth injury, medical device failures, and adverse drug reactions. Our focus and deep knowledge of birth injury allow us to successfully litigate these medically complex cases, as seen by the extensive list of multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements. Our firm is consistently listed in numerous publications and legal awards lists, including U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Law Firms,” BestLawyers, SuperLawyers, the New York Times, and other magazine publications. Please reach out to us for a free and confidential case evaluation. If you choose to pursue a case with us, you will never be charged out-of-pocket fees, and we will vigorously fight to secure your child’s future care.
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Non-Legal Cerebral Palsy Resources
The following is a short list of cerebral palsy and special needs resources available in Pennsylvania compiled by the Pennsylvania cerebral palsy attorneys at ABC Law Centers. While it is by no means comprehensive, it provides a starting point for seeking needed services and can provide an idea of the depth and breadth of offered programs. If is worth noting that many of the larger organizations, including state programs, the United Way, the Arc Pennsylvania, and United Cerebral Palsy provide numerous programs in education, financial assistance, legal information, and other services, even though they are not listed under each sub-heading.
How Do I Get Financial or Medical Help for My Child with Cerebral Palsy in Pennsylvania?
Governmental Organizations for Cerebral Palsy and Disabilities in Pennsylvania
Because cerebral palsy is a disability, there are numerous programs that can help those with cerebral palsy and their families. Parents who have a child with cerebral palsy often have access to state and/or federal assistance programs that are developed to help cover medical costs, equipment costs, and other financial considerations. Often, individuals with disabilities have access to Medicare/Medicaid to cover some portion of the costs of healthcare, and can sometimes receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if their disabilities do not allow them to work.
- The Social Security Administration provides the TANF and SSI programs to assist individuals with disabilities.
- The City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services provides a searchable database of related programs.
Hospital Assistance Programs for Disabilities in Pennsylvania
Certain hospitals also have specialized programs designed to help children and adults with special needs or related disorders. One of the most effective ways to find resources on a local level is to contact your city, county or regional Department of Human Services; often these organizations have comprehensive service lists and trained staff who can assist in finding help specific to your child’s needs.
- Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): The Cerebral Palsy and Related Disorders Program provides comprehensive coordinated services to infants, children and young adults with CP. In addition to their main location, the program has four rural sub-branches in Uniontown, Indiana, Beaver and New Castle.
- The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): This facility has an Adult Spasticity Center which specializes in treating spasticity from neurological disorders.
Nonprofit Organizations for Disabilities in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania also has a sizable number of non-profit organizations devoted to helping people with cerebral palsy. These include United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) as well as several other organizations. These organizations often have robust connections to service providers throughout the state and can connect people to needed services. Some of them (such as UCP), have multiple branches in different localities, so it may be useful to reach out to them to see what resources are available:
- Blossom Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): Provides a resource directory for medical, legal, recreational, human service, transportation, and social development programs.
- The United Cerebral Palsy Resource Center (Scranton, Pennsylvania): This division in Northeastern Pennsylvania helps individuals who need assistive equipment receive training, equipment, and evaluation.
- The United Way of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania): This organization has numerous branches throughout the state, and provide services ranging from early education to financial assistance.
Other resources that provide information regarding financial assistance include the Need Help Paying Bills resource guide to financial assistance.
How Can I Get My Child Educational Help or Early Intervention in Pennsylvania?
Educational Resources in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Erie, and Other Pennsylvania Cities
Educational resources can vary depending on your child’s age, abilities, and other considerations. If a child is very young (under the age of three), there are Early Intervention programs available to help your child’s developmental delays and maximize their potential. These children often have IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plans) that can outline the child’s needs and develop a plan to help the child transition into a school environment.
If a child is older than age 3, this is the stage where the school becomes an important resource in the child’s development. If the child has developmental delays or disabilities, it is their legal right to get support from the school through the development and execution of a different plan called an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This document outlines the child’s needs, developmental goals, needed resources, and a plan for obtaining and using those resources effectively. There are many IEP resources available, usually through your local school district. Information about the IEP planning process can be found here:
If a child is an adult or is transitioning to adulthood, there are programs in place to help them maximize their independence and learn valuable pre-vocational skills. For individuals who require additional support, there are programs (such as adult day programs, community-based programs, and residential communities) designed to increase community integration, life skills development, socialization and pre-vocational skill training.
- Pennsylvania 211 has a listing of 142 Early Intervention programs throughout the state.
- For adult individuals with intellectual disabilities, UCP of Central Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania) provides a wide range of adult day programs, as well as in-home and community supports, supported employment resources and residential services. They also provide comprehensive resources for individuals with physical disabilities.
- The CADES program (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania) provides Early Intervention Services, special education schooling for ages 3-21, adult day programs, residential services and transportation programs.
- The Alleghany County Early Intervention Resource and the Alleghany Family Network guides provide county residents with early educational information and services. They also have resource listings for neighboring counties, including Armstrong County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Greene County, Indiana County, Lawrence County, Washington County and Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
- The National Association of Private Special Education Centers has a national listing of private special education groups.
- The Lebanon School District website (Lebanon, Pennsylvania) provides a listing of both location-specific and statewide disability-related education resources.
- Federation Early Learning Services (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) provides parent education, early childhood awareness programs, and community information.
- The HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) provides education, therapies and transition programs for children with cerebral palsy.
- Wayne County Office of Behavioral and Developmental Programs and Early Intervention (Honesdale, Pennsylvania and Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania) provides information regarding local resources for early intervention.
- Penn State (University Park, Pennsylvania) provides Literacy Instruction for individuals with disabilities, including cerebral palsy.
- Lancaster County (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania) provides a resource guide for disabilities of various types, including cerebral palsy.
Where Can I Find Employment or Housing Resources for Individuals with Cerebral Palsy in Pennsylvania?
The kind of employment services available to an individual can vary vastly depending on their abilities, desires and resource availability in their area. Different programs are available for those who need supported employment or supported living services as opposed to individuals who require 24-hour care. Often, local outposts of such organizations as United Cerebral Palsy are some of the best resources to consult. Other examples of local resources include:
- Chesco.org: A database of supported living services and other human resources listings in Chester County. This site works in conjunction with the Cerebral Palsy Association of Chester County (Exton, Pennsylvania), which provides adult services.
- Works For Me PA provides employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, along with the Arc (Scranton, Pennsylvania), KenCrest (Blue Bell, Pennsylvania), as well as the service providers on the Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual disAbility Services’ website. UDS Services (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania) also provides matching services to individuals referred by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Other Useful Cerebral Palsy and Disability-Related Resources in Pennsylvania:
- The Special Needs Resource Project provides a large database of disability-related resources in the following categories: military assistance, advocacy, government agencies and assistance programs, private agencies and assistance programs, assistive technologies, charities and foundations, child care resources, disability-specific organizations, early intervention, education, employment, equipment, housing programs, independent living, Indian health services, general information, insurance help. Legal advocacy/information, medical care, medical information and research, parental support and assistance, patient assistance, recreation, service animal programs, transitional/post-secondary schooling, and transportation.
- Pathways of Southwestern Pennsylvania (Washington, Pennsylvania) provides special needs services throughout the lifespan.
- Special needs resources guides can be found for the following counties:
- The MORGAN (Making Opportunities Reality Granting Assistance Nationwide) Project publishes a PDF resource guide of parent information for children with disabilities.
- Temple University has a listing of Assistive Technology Lending Libraries listed by county.
- The Bucks County Special Needs site provides listings of several nonprofit organizations designed to help individuals with a disability, as well as support programs for their families.
- Individuals in Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, York County or Montgomery counties can call the Partnership for Community Supports hotline for customized answers to their questions.
- Sesame Place is the first U.S. amusement park designed for children on the autism spectrum. It is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Cerebral Palsy Attorneys
Trusted Birth Trauma Attorneys Serving Families in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Across Pennsylvania
At Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers, the members of our legal team have devoted their entire careers to helping children impacted by birth trauma. They’ve secured millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for clients all over the United States and serve as active members and leaders in groups including the Birth Trauma Litigation Group, the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, the American Association for Justice, and more.
Feel free to reach out to the Pennsylvania cerebral palsy attorneys at Reiter & Walsh, P.C. if you suspect that your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by medical malpractice. We would be happy to provide you with a free consultation and help you explore your legal options for securing your child’s future. The consultation is completely free and confidential. If you choose to pursue a case, you will never pay fees out-of-pocket.
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