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Cerebral palsy care should start earlier

Children with cerebral palsy stand a much better chance of improving their skills if help begins when they are still babies.

Julia Horvath, head of conductive education at the Peto Institute in Budapest, said last week at the Craighalbert Centre in Cumbernauld: "More children learn to walk and start to speak earlier. Conductive education can be done at the pre-verbal age."

Professor Horvath, on a six-week placement at the national conductive education centre, told parents and staff that intervention between the ages of six months and one year led to higher rates of integration and the prevention of secondary damage. Conductive education practices could be carried out through playing, feeding, dressing and toilet training.

One member of the audience pointed out that children in Scotland were only diagnosed at nine months. Professor Horvath accepted that the picture was not clear under the age of 12 months but insisted work could still progress.

Lillemor Jernqvist, Craighalbert's director, said Scottish opinion was inching towards accepting babies for treatment, although it was a question of attitudes and resources. "It's not so long ago that children were not recorded at the age of two or three," she pointed out.

Dr Jernqvist believed development would be rapid at the earlier age and would help to prevent behavioural problems. The youngest child to attend the Craighalbert Centre was aged 14 months.

It was the responsibility of education authorities to refer children, she added.

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