Since this group’s inception, I have received emails and questions from people all over the world. Surprisingly, we started out as an in-person local support group for families in Northern Virginia. But, with busy schedules, we have turned into more of a virtual support group – which is totally fine! When I receive emails from people across the globe, I realize that all families with kids who have cerebral palsy share a common thread – that is: that they need to feel connected and supported.
I attempted to find statistics on the number of cerebral palsy cases worldwide but I could not get those figures to share with you. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) posted the following key facts about disability in general:
- Over a billion people, about 15% of the world's population, have some form of disability.
- Between 110 million and 190 million adults have significant difficulties in functioning.
- Rates of disability are increasing due to population ageing and increases in chronic health conditions, among other causes.
- People with disabilities have less access to health care services and therefore experience unmet health care needs.
I was also able to get the following information, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on incidents of cerebral palsy in the U.S.:
- It is estimated that 764,000 children and adults in the U.S. manifest one or more of the symptoms of cerebral palsy.
- According to the CDC, each year about 10,000 babies born in the United States will develop cerebral palsy
- 1,200 - 1,500 preschool age children are also recognized to have cerebral palsy each year.
Though not scientific by any means, I was curious to see if I could estimate the number of CP cases worldwide. There are about 324 million people living in the United States and there are over 7 billion people living across the world. Based on the CDC number above (10,000 cases each year), I extrapolated that there could be about 70,000 cases of CP, each year, worldwide. That’s a staggering number. Most cases of CP are mild and the child can conduct as “normal” a life as possible. However, for many kids, CP presents some major challenges which in turn burdens the families supporting that child. What I did learn from those emails that I received is that there are some innovative therapies and interventions being used in various countries. The western world does not have a monopoly on what is best for the child with CP. For example, I received an email about an intervention that has proved very effective for a child in Lebanon. This therapy is called the Feldenkrais Method. (Incidentally, as you may be aware, I post my blog on Facebook as well and that is how this particular family connected with me.) If you know of a particular therapy or intervention that has proved especially helpful to you or to someone you know, please share it with the group by posting the information on my forum.
I am hoping that providing this information to you will give you a sense of perspective as you go about your daily, though at times difficult life, while supporting your child. In the western world, I think that we are especially good at connecting with each other and sharing our stories without limits. Generally speaking, in other parts of the world, the family with a disabled child tends to feel isolated. So, when I get emails from people living in other parts of the world, I share with them what I know and I hope that they will share with me what they know as well. Ultimately, we all want the same thing. We want our special children to be the best that they can be – no matter where we live.