Meet Shreesh Kulkarni. The 11-year-old from Pune was ranked seventh at state-level pre-upper primary scholarship exam last month. Shreesh is a chess champion and he is ranked by the International Chess Federation. He has won many scholarships in Mathematics. Shreesh also has cerebral palsy (CP).
An ardent Harry Potter fan, Shreesh spends most of his time solving math problems, watching cricket and playing mobile games and chess. “I either want to be a sportsman or a mathematician in future,” he said.
Shreesh is a glowing example of how children with cerebral palsy can be all-rounders if the condition is managed and their abilities are channelised properly. There are several stigmas associated with cerebral palsy that often leads to social isolation and hampers development of these children. Doctors say that prolonged treatment has made it possible for Shreesh to tackle delayed development.
Dr Jaai Joshi, development pediatrician at KEM Hospital, Pune, said, “Early diagnosis, home training and regular follow ups are the keys to ensure children with cerebral palsy can lead fulfilling lives. Shreesh takes regular physiotherapy sessions. Also, many a times schools do not admit kids with CP, but his case proves even these children are equally intelligent.”
Shreesh was one-and-half years old when he was diagnosed with CP. He has a movement disorder due to which he cannot walk. Shreesh and his parents have been visiting KEM Hospital regularly occupation therapy and physiotherapy. He has also taken help of aqua and sand therapies to help the motor ability of legs.
While symptoms of CP vary from patient to patient, common ones include movement disorders, problems with sensation, vision or speaking and problems with thinking and reasoning.
Shreesh has been diagnosed with what is called spastic diplegia with B/L flexion knee deformity. The boy, who uses a walker to move around because of his stiff leg muscles, was recently operated at Sancheti Hospital, Pune. After his first post-surgical follow-up last week doctors say he would soon be able to walk on his own.
Dr Sanddep Patwardhan, pediatric orthopedic specialist who recently performed the surgery, said, “I could see his walking ability has improved after the operation when he came for the first follow-up after surgery last week. cerebral palsy is not totally curable but parents should not just rely on physiotherapy and where needed if surgical intervention done the child can be made independent.”
“Not all the children affected with CP have problem with thinking or reasoning. In majority of cases, movement disorders are seen among children. While there are many misconceptions surrounding CP, Shreesh’s case shows even these kids can shine in academics and extra-curricular activities,” he added.
Shreya, Shreesh’s mother, said, “My son does not like being treated differently, and expects everyone to treat him like any other kid. We have raised him to live his life as independently as possible.”
Speaking to My Medical Mantra, Shreesh said, “I do not get tired of treatments and exercises as I know that this will help me to be independent.”
While Shreesh comes from an economically sound background and his parents are educated, there are several children who are not as privileged. District Early Intervention Centre (DEIC) at Aundh General Hospital caters to children from low economic backgrounds and gives them special intervention during early development stages. More than 50% of the cases here are children affected with CP.
Dr Pradnya Gawde, pediatrician at DEIC, said, “At this government-run facility, the biggest problem is that of follow-ups. There is a lack of awareness among illiterate parents and children are neglected. As they grow up, it becomes more difficult for families to bring them to the centre. Recovery in these cases is slow. These children need prolonged therapy.”