Although some children with cerebral palsy (CP) also have autism, the two conditions are not the same. Both can affect language, but for different reasons. Children with CP may have difficulty speaking due to a lack of motor control that is caused by brain damage. In contrast, autistic children may have trouble communicating due to deficiencies in social functioning.
The Difference Between Autism and Cerebral Palsy
According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 7% of children with cerebral palsy have a co-occurring autism spectrum disorder. This is more commonly found in those with non-spastic CP. Approximately 1% to 2% of kids who do not have CP are autistic.
If you are concerned about your child’s development, you can visit here for more information about how you can get help with diagnosing cerebral palsy. Keep reading to learn more about the connection between autism spectrum disorders and CP.
Cerebral Palsy and Autism
Autism affects the area of the brain that controls communication and behavior. Most cases of autism are hereditary. Autism can also be caused by maternal illness and certain environmental factors. Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to a baby or young child’s developing brain. This can happen in the womb or during or shortly after delivery. Birth injury or medical negligence can also cause cerebral palsy.
The association between the two conditions comes into play due to the common genetic variants that can lead to abnormal communication and motor development. Genetic factors in some children can affect the way brain cells communicate with each other, contributing to the child developing both autism and CP.
Parents who have one child with autism are more likely to have another due to genetic factors. However, cerebral palsy is not more likely to occur in your other children if your first child is affected.
Risk Factors for Developing Cerebral Palsy
In many cases of cerebral palsy, the cause is unknown. These are some of the known risk factors that may increase a child’s chances of developing CP:
- Premature birth
- Multiple births
- Rh incompatibility
- Infertility treatments
- Low birth weight
- Fever during pregnancy
- Toxic chemical exposure
Risk Factors for Developing Autism
In addition to being more likely to have a second or third child with autism, if your first child is affected, there are other risk factors. These include:
- Parental age – Older parents are more likely to have a child on the autism spectrum.
- The child’s sex – Male children are four times more likely to be autistic than females.
- Premature birth – The risk of autism increases when a baby is born before 26 weeks.
Whether your child has cerebral palsy, autism, or both, there are treatment options available that can improve their quality of living and help them develop the skills they need for a fulfilling life.
Children with cerebral palsy can benefit from several therapies. Physical therapy can help them with mobility issues. Occupational therapy uses play to develop skills while having fun. Some other therapies your doctor may prescribe to treat your child include speech and occupational therapy.
The CDC recommends that children on the autism spectrum have early intervention services, as these can significantly improve outcomes. In addition to the therapies that benefit kids with CP, autistic children may have therapy that helps them to learn how to communicate and interact with others. Early intervention services are most helpful when begun between birth and three years of age.
The sooner your child is diagnosed, the quicker they will be able to begin treatment. Don’t be afraid to approach your pediatrician with any concerns you may have.