Cerebral Palsy and Social Security Disability
“Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills (the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way).” Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain either during pregnancy or during the first five years of life. “In general, cerebral palsy causes impaired movement associated with exaggerated reflexes, floppiness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk, abnormal posture, involuntary movements, unsteadiness of walking, or some combination of these.”
There are a variety of signs and symptoms associated with cerebral palsy.
- Variations in muscle tone, such as being either too stiff or too floppy
- Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity)
- Stiff muscles with normal reflexes (rigidity)
- Lack of muscle coordination (ataxia)
- Tremors or involuntary movements
- Slow, writhing movements (athetosis)
- Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as pushing up on arms, or sitting alone or crawling
- Favoring one side of the body, such as reaching with only one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
- Difficulty walking, such as walking on toes, a crouched gait, a scissors-like gait with knees crossing, or a wide gait
- Excessive drooling or problems with swallowing
- Difficulty with sucking or eating
- Delays in speech development or difficulty speaking
- Difficulty with precise motions, such as picking up a crayon or spoon
Cerebral palsy is caused by some type of brain damage. This damage commonly occurs in the womb due to a mother having health problems during the pregnancy. But the brain damage can also happen after birth due to infant illness or traumatic head injury. An individual with cerebral palsy can also suffer from other conditions, such as malnutrition, due to difficulty swallowing, lung disease, psychiatric conditions such as depression, shortening of muscle tissue that “can inhibit bone growth, cause bones to bend, and result in joint deformities, dislocation or partial dislocation,” and osteoarthritis.
As with most diagnoses, the doctor will take a full medical history looking for the common signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy. MRIs, cranial ultrasounds, and CT scans are used to image the brain to “reveal areas of damage or abnormal development in the brain.” EEGs are used to look at the brainwave patterns if an individual has seizures to look for epilepsy. Blood tests are sometimes used “to rule out other conditions, such as blood-clotting disorders that can cause strokes, which may mimic cerebral palsy signs and symptoms.”
“Children and adults with cerebral palsy require long-term care with a medical care team.” Aside from a pediatrician for children or general practitioner for adults, the medical team may include a neurologist, orthopedist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, and a mental health specialist, among others. Medications are prescribed to “lessen the tightness of muscles [in order to] improve functional abilities, treat pain and manage complications related to spasticity or other cerebral palsy symptoms.” Most individuals with cerebral palsy go through a combination of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and recreational therapy. If an individual's muscles are so contracted and cause bone abnormalities, sometimes surgery is warranted to lessen pain and improve mobility.
Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability eligibility for individuals with cerebral palsy are that an individual have an “IQ of 70 or less; or abnormal behavior patterns; or significant interference in communication due to speech, hearing, or visual defect; or significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in continual difficulties with gross muscle movements and fine motor skills.” SSD applications require extensive documentation on an applicant's medical condition. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.