Mon, 22 Dec 2003

Cerebral palsy not always a threat to intelligence

Dewi Santoso The Jakarta Post Jakarta

Children with cerebral palsy are no less intelligent than other children and can go to school, provided that they receive therapeutic treatment as early as possible in life, a doctor says.

Specialist Amendi Nasution said cerebral palsy was not always associated with a deficiency in intelligence.

"I know a girl with cerebral palsy. She goes to the University of Indonesia, and her grade point average (GPA) is always above 3. She's now doing her thesis," Amendi told a seminar on Saturday.

She said that approximately 70 percent of children with cerebral palsy were proven able to succeed in schools, thanks to proper treatment at an early stage.

Experts estimate between 10 percent and 15 percent of cases of cerebral palsy are caused from a recognized brain injury, such as an infectious disease (like meningitis), bleeding in the brain and brain damage caused by lack of oxygen.

So far in Indonesia the occurrence of cerebral palsy has not been monitored. But it is estimated that two children out of every 1,000 in the world have cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movements and muscle coordination. People with cerebral palsy have damage to the area of the brain that controls muscle tone.

They may not be able to walk, talk, eat, or play depending on which part of their brain is damaged. The damage can occur during fetal development or during infancy.

Amendi said cerebral palsy was neither progressive nor communicable.

"It is not a disease or illness. It is not contagious and does not get worse. Everyone has a chance of developing cerebral palsy, including mothers 40 years and older, mothers and fathers 20 years and older, and children or infants," she said.

Although it is not curable, education, therapy, and technology can help children with cerebral palsy lead a life as normal people.

"Children who develop cerebral palsy before the age of seven have the greatest chance of leading a normal life," Amendi told The Jakarta Post.

Many types of treatment are available to help children with cerebral palsy function at the highest level possible, including a therapeutic exercise program and, more recently, the botox injection.

Botulinum toxin, also known as Botox, is said to give considerable support in the treatment of children with cerebral palsy.

"With an average of one injection every six months, Botox will be very helpful if used in conjunction with therapy," said Amendi. One shot of Botox comprising one vial of 100 units costs approximately Rp 2.5 million (US$294).

She emphasized that although Botox could help increase muscle tone, it would be ineffective without therapy.

"Cerebral palsy is not curable. Once you have it, it'll stay for the rest of your life. So, you can't expect Botox to remove the disorder. You'll still have to follow the therapy as long as you live," she said.

To date, although the number of people with cerebral palsy is rising, there is not a single association helping people with cerebral palsy in Indonesia.

There are two therapeutic centers for children with cerebral palsy, called Kitty Center, in Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta and in Kedoya in West Jakarta.

"We are trying to encourage parents whose children have cerebral palsy to form an association among themselves," said Amendi.