There is a continuing controversy in pediatric neurorehabilitation about how much hope to give parents of a child with diagnosed brain damage. This interview gives my position, as well as the response from the parents of a child with cerebral palsy.


In my book, The Boy Who Could Run But Not Walk: Understanding Neuroplasticity in the Child’s Brain, I discuss the negative impact on parents of taking away hope of recovery for a child at risk of or diagnosed with cerebral palsy. In my experience, parents are better served by an honest appraisal of our best guess about outcome, coupled with a plan of action to help the child achieve his or her best possible result. In my world view, there is no place for a passive wait and see attitude.

My attitude about outcome has been shaped by over a 40-year experience in the diagnosis and management of early brain injury from the NICU though to adult life. My book is full of stories of children and parents who have defied the odds and through hard work and love, changed the outcome for their child. Many professionals still secretly think hopeful parents are “in denial” and they discourage them from setting their hopes too high, for fear of disappointment. This is an outdated view that denies the reality that even doctors can be wrong. I have lived long enough to know the limits of what I can predict. Bless the parents who taught me about real hope.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.”
Helen Keller

Helen Keller was a writer and political activist who became deaf and blind at 19 months of age. No one could have predicted the life she led.

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