child with CP interacts with therapist at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Patient Story

CLOSER LOOK: Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day

Posted By Jesse Kirsch


ABC 7 Chicago



CHICAGO (WLS) -- On National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, here's a closer look at what this condition means for people all over the world. 

"Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood," explained Leslie O'Donnell, a physical therapist at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. 

O'Donnell said the injuries causing CP happen before during and after birth; the impact varies widely in severity, sometimes "making it difficult to swallow, to eat, to move your hands, to move your legs," she added. 

With the condition manifesting itself so many different ways, therapies are individualized. Since CP is always tied to early childhood, those treatment plans require extra thought. 

"You have to make it fun and you have to be ready to change your mind and move on to a new activity quickly (because) they may have their own agenda or idea of what they want to do today," explained O'Donnell. 

Monday, 6-year-old Nova Jackson took on an obstacle course during her session. Her mom, Ashlee Luna, said Nova's CP impacts her daughter's entire body, the left side more than her right. 

That means "muscle stability, strength, endurance, balance, coordination" are all impacted, Luna explained. 

"Everything takes a little more time with Nova and a little more patience," she added. 

But beyond the physical impairments, Luna said her daughter is like any other 6-year-old-ready to remind you she's actually 6-and-a-half. 

"CP is something that affects people's bodies but doesn't make them strange or weird or different," Luna said. 

She encouraged people to engage with the CP community and hopes that for the future, "the world continues to be a little bit more of an accessible place for Nova and we continue to have access to resources and therapies that can make life easier." 

Some downtown buildings, including the Wrigley Building and Merchandise Mart will light up green Monday to honor the day of awareness. 

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