Though the original Cerebral Palsy month occurred in January of 1985 by proclamation of President Ronald Reagan, we now celebrate Cerebral Palsy Awareness in the month of March. National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day is recognized annually on March 25th. How will you get involved this year?
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a diagnostic term to describe movement, muscle tone, and posture problems caused by a brain abnormality, often occurring before or shortly after birth. This disorder cannot be cured; however, treatment – such as physical or occupational therapy, medicine, and surgery – may help. While some bodily movement is permanently affected, it will not worsen over a person’s lifetime.
According to United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), “It is the most common motor disorder and the second-most common disability found in children.”
Symptoms can vary widely between cases. Someone with mild CP may present with muscle weakness or rigidity, while a more serious case would present with exaggerated reflexes, involuntary motions, difficulty swallowing, and stunted growth and development. All signs will appear by early childhood.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that 1 in 323 children “has been identified with CP.” The majority of CP diagnoses are congenital, meaning they occur before birth (85-95 percent). A small percentage happens after birth; acquired CP often is associated with infection, head trauma, medical negligence, and lack of oxygen to the brain during the birth process or due to abuse.
Who Is United Cerebral Palsy (UCP)?
In the 1940s, options for families affected by Cerebral Palsy were sparse. Medical professionals knew little about CP, and instead of treating the individuals affected, they’d recommend institutionalizing the children.
That all changed in 1948, when Leonard H. Goldenson, the then-President of United Paramount Theaters and ABC Television, joined up with New York businessman Jack Hausman. Together with their wives, they placed an ad in the New York Herald Tribune looking for families, like theirs, to band together to make knowledge of CP mainstream, so that people with disabilities could be active members of society, instead of being pushed to the side.
That one newspaper ad created such interest, that the next year United Cerebral Palsy developed into a national organization.
While it was originally founded to bring awareness to Cerebral Palsy only, the organization’s goal is to educate, advocate, and support people with a spectrum of disabilities. UCP works to advocate for a life without limits, and every March, they partner up with other organizations to sponsor National Cerebral Palsy Month and Day.
Why Is National Cerebral Palsy Month Important?
One of the main goals for the month is to increase awareness of Cerebral Palsy, and to dispel any myths about the disorder.
National Cerebral Palsy Month also showcases the importance of, and immediate need for, CP funding for prevention, treatment, and research for a cure.
How Can You Help?
If you, or someone you know, lives with Cerebral Palsy, UCP invites you to share with the world yours or their story. Upload a video and use the hashtag #CerebralPalsyCan. UPC and its partners will be sharing submitted videos on their social media channels, and maybe they’ll even feature you!
Other ways to get involved include: sharing facts about Cerebral Palsy throughout the month on social media, donating to a national or local organization that supports people living with Cerebral Palsy, or reposting the videos UPC and its partners share.
Be sure to check out all of the #CerebralPalsyCan Campaign Partners: United Cerebral Palsy, My Life Without Limits, HandicapThis!, Love That Max: A Special Needs Blog, The Cerebral Palsy Swagger, and Ms. Wheelchair Michigan