I Am Jayden: Hemiplegia

Mommy 7
JJ and Mommy
Friday, October 2

What is hemiplegia?

Hemiplegia (sometimes called hemiparesis) literally means paralysis of half of the body.

When someone has hemiplegia (‘hemi’ means ‘half’ in Greek) it is because one of the hemispheres of their brain is damaged. We talk about a left or right hemiplegia, depending on the side affected.

About one in every 1,000 children has hemiplegia. In the majority of cases the damage to the brain happens before, during or soon after birth, when it is known as congenital hemiplegia.

Some children, however, develop hemiplegia after a stroke (when a bleed or a blood clot damages part of the brain), an accident, a brain infection or tumour. This is called acquired hemiplegia. Some people develop hemiplegia in adulthood, following illnesses such as a stroke, accident, infection or tumour.

Hemiplegia affects everyone differently but its most obvious result is a varying degree of weakness and lack of control in one side of the body (rather like someone who has had a stroke). Some children are only mildly affected, others more seriously. In some, the leg is more badly affected than the arm, in others it is the arm which is more seriously affected. But in a majority of children, the damage to their brain affects more than their limbs and movement.

Specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, perceptual and concentration problems are common, as are emotional and behavioural problems. And hemiplegia can also cause medical problems such as visual impairment, speech difficulties and epilepsy.

Hemiplegia is a permanent condition, so it will not go away and it cannot be cured. But it is also non-progressive, which means it will not get any worse, and with help, its effects may be reduced. When a child is diagnosed with hemiplegia, they are usually referred to a child development centre, often within a local hospital. Here, different therapists work with the child to lessen the effects of the condition, strengthen the weakened side of the body and develop the skills of the individual.