HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Wednesday, March 25 is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day and Americans are encouraged to wear a bit of green in honor of the day.
The event, authorized by Congress, recognizes that cerebral palsy is one of the most common forms of lasting disability in children.
Contrary to what many think, cerebral palsy is not a disease.
It is a disorder related to a brain injury, affecting muscle movement, that occurs before, during or shortly after birth. In an estimated 80% of cases, the cause is unknown.
Early intervention is often key.
At the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation of Huntsville, the trained staff serves thousands of people each year. Early intervention focuses on ages 0-3.
UCP Huntsville CEO Cheryl Smith says, "a lot of individuals will not necessarily be cured of CP but can, through therapy and other services, be able to manage (it)."
Charisse Hogan has been living with CP since birth. Doctors once predicted she would never walk. They were wrong.
Now 21-years-old, Charisse is an active and vibrant young woman who is passionate about raising awareness of cerebral palsy.
At just 16, she started a YouTube channel called "Charisse Living With Cerebral Palsy." She says she began the project as a way of educating her classmates about the disability.
Hogan says, "even though someone might have cerebral palsy, they can do what other people can do. They just do it in their own unique way."
"We may be different on the outside but inside we are like everyone else," Hogan adds.
Children do not need a cerebral palsy diagnosis to be seen by UCP therapists and staff. In fact, UCP Huntsville provides services for 156 diagnoses. Anyone who may benefit from its services is welcome.
In addition to early intervention, some of those services include physical, occupational and speech therapy for children with short-term injuries; counseling for families affected by a disability; respite care for families with special needs children; and free durable medical equipment loans.
Many of the services are free. Those that are not free are charged on a sliding scale, to help families who may not be able to afford treatment.
For more information about UCP programs or services, call (256) 852-5600.