The Past, Present, and Future of Cerebral Palsy Research and Disability Rights

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Children have likely been born with cerebral palsy since ancient times. However, it was only in the last two centuries that scientists began to understand the condition, and it’s even more recently that lawmakers started to protect the legal rights of people with cerebral palsy.

The Medical History of Cerebral Palsy

the history of cerebral palsy in the united statesThe first known research into the condition that would become known as cerebral palsy was done by British doctor William John Little beginning in the 1830s. Dr. Little researched and wrote about spastic diplegia and pseudo-hypertrophic muscular dystrophy. In 1861, Dr. Little wrote about a birth injury that occurs when a child is partially suffocated during labor. At the time, this condition became known as Little’s Disease.

Later in the 1800s, Sir William Osler and Dr. Sigmund Freud contributed to cerebral palsy research. In 1889, Sir William Osler wrote a book, Cerebral Palsies of Children, which furthered Dr. Little’s research. He later went on to become the Chief of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Then, in the late 1890s, Dr. Sigmund Freud put forth a theory that cerebral palsy occurs before birth and is associated with other conditions, including intellectual disabilities, seizures, and vision issues.

By the mid-20th century, things began evolving even more quickly. In 1947, the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation was formed. In the 1980s, medical researchers proved that cerebral palsy might be caused by birth injuries, as Dr. Little suggested, and for factors occurring before birth, as Dr. Freud suggested.

Today, medical research continues to develop treatments to improve the lives of people with cerebral palsy.

Important Laws That Protect the Rights of People with Cerebral Palsy

More than a century after Dr. Little’s work, legal developments in the United States began changing the rights of people with cerebral palsy. Some of the new laws included:

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In 1975, the Education of Handicapped Children Act became federal law. The law was updated in 1977 to become the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. IDEA provides children with disabilities the right to free appropriate education in the least restrictive environment possible. Children with disabilities, as defined in this law, receive Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that explain exactly how they will receive special education services.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability. The purpose of the law is to give people with disabilities the same rights as people without them. These rights include, but are not limited to, the right to work, attend school, access transportation, and participate in government programs. The law requires that reasonable accommodations be made so that people with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, are treated equally.

One Thing Hasn’t Changed for People With Cerebral Palsy

A lot has changed for people with cerebral palsy over the past two centuries. However, one critical thing remains the same. Parental advocacy and involvement remain crucial for children with cerebral palsy. While parents of children with cerebral palsy may have had limited options in previous generations, you now have many options available to you.

After your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, you may advocate for your child to receive all appropriate medical services, educational opportunities, and legal recoveries.

Medical services may include things like doctors’ appointments, medications, surgeries, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy.

Educational opportunities should be discussed with First Steps or your local school district, depending on your child’s age. Together, you will work with a team of educational experts to develop the right educational plan for your child.

Finally, if your child has cerebral palsy because of medical negligence, your child may be able to make a legal recovery. A successful cerebral palsy lawsuit could pay for your child’s current and future medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, physical pain, and emotional suffering, as well as your child’s future lost income.

Our experienced Kentucky cerebral palsy lawyers are here to help you. Call us today to schedule a free consultation about your child’s legal rights and possible recovery.

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