United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona receives donation to expand

The United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Central Arizona, which has served families across the Valley for over 70 years, received a generous grant of $30,000 from the BHHS Legacy Foundation to expand services in its Baby Clinic.

UCP of Central Arizona provides comprehensive services to individuals with disabilities and their families by providing physical and developmental support as well as educational growth for infants, children, and adults.

The Baby Clinic has services specifically for babies up to 18 months who are at risk for cerebral palsy and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

“We are very grateful for this grant and the ability to serve even more families of babies who are at risk for cerebral palsy,” said Valerie Pieraccini, Director of Therapy and Early Learning Center.

Additionally, UCP has a pediatric therapy clinic which offers occupational, physical, speech and feeding therapy to children up to age 12. Currently, children aged 18 months and younger account for 10% of the clinic’s total population.

Now, with the grant, UCP plans to further develop and expand an evidence-based early detection and treatment program for the babies who are at high risk and require targeted tools and expert therapists.

Currently, the Baby Clinic serves 35 Valley infants, but with support from the BHHS Legacy Foundation, they will be able to expand healthcare access by roughly 20-30% in the years ahead.

“Without the support of organizations like the BHHS Legacy Foundation, the Baby Clinic and countless other programs we support would not be possible,” said Brenda Hanserd, CEO of UCP of Central Arizona. “The families we serve benefit greatly from early intervention and the cutting-edge medical programs we facilitate at UCP of Central Arizona, which in turn leads to a more productive and fulfilling life for children and adults with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders. We cannot thank the BHHS Legacy Foundation enough for its recognition of the important work we do.”

BHHS Legacy Foundation supports organizations that enhance health and quality of life in the Greater Phoenix area and the Tri-State region of northern Arizona. They do so by funding grants to nonprofits with health-related programs, nurturing collaborative partnerships, and raising funds through Legacy Connection to support community organizations.

To date, BHHS Legacy Foundation has invested more than $110 million in nonprofits to support programs across the state.

With the recent updates to the CDC and AAP milestone guidelines we also wanted to find out about how this might affect babies not yet diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

How does the developmental milestone update affect kids who might be diagnosed with cerebral palsy? 

The CDC changed the developmental milestones checklist for infants and young children to make it easier to identify delays in social, emotional and communication skills that could be signs of autism. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, an infant reaching for their feet with hands, an early motor milestone that is a key indicator of cerebral palsy, was missing. Other key motor milestones such as crawling were not mentioned either.

Could it affect their early intervention? 

Cerebral palsy can be diagnosed as early as 3 months of age based on quality of movement but our average age in the U.S is 2 years old. I am hopeful that the old “wait-and-see” approach to diagnosing CP based solely on delayed motor milestones will be replaced. Until that time, the CDC should include early motor milestones such as coordinated sucking for feeding or bringing hands to the center of the body to hold a toy. This helps parents know to watch for all aspects of child development and early intervention can start.

What are the pros/cons of the modified guidelines, in your opinion as a professional who deals with early diagnosis and intervention of neurological disorders, like cerebral palsy? 

The new guidelines were designed to give clearer benchmarks for when development occur. Whenever we try to make it easier for parents to be able to identify delays in their child’s development, that “pro” outweigh any “cons.” My concern that since many motor milestones were not included, movement disorders may not be noticed.

What advice would you give to parents about advocating for their child, should they be concerned about the developmental milestone updates? 

Parents are the experts on their children and often know when their child needs help. If help occurs early, there is a critical window of opportunity with developmental neuroplasticity prior to 3 years old. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself with new connections in response to experiences and activity in the child’s world. It’s an important time for parents to seek help. If concerned, parents should watch their child carefully, write down what they observe and take the list to the pediatrician. A few short videos can illustrate your concerns. Family is a child’s best advocate.

Is there anything else you would want parents to know? 

Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disorder in childhood and yet, it is often overlooked which I fear has occurred with the new CDC guidelines. New research showing that targeted therapeutic and biomedical treatment can change the trajectory of a child with cerebral palsy. However, their effectiveness is dependent on an early diagnosis and I am concerned that not enough emphasis was given to motor development.

For more information about UCP of Central Arizona, the clients it serves and the programs it offers, visit www. https://ucpofcentralaz.org/