Cerebral palsy (CP) is a non-progressive pathologic lesion
in the developing infant or child’s brain causing permanent motor
and/or sensory impairment. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood,
and affects a person’s mobility, posture, and balance.
There are both various types and degrees of cerebral palsy. It
may be diagnosed when delayed gross motor development, abnormal
motor performance, alterations of muscle tone, abnormal postures
at rest, and reflex abnormalities become discernible.
Types of cerebral palsy: The four most
common types of CP are athetoid, ataxic, rigid, spastic,
Athetoid: constant, uncontrolled motion of the arms and legs,
head and eyes.
Ataxic: poor sense of balance, often causing falls and stumbles.
Rigid: tight muscles that resist effort to make them move.
Spastic: tense, contracted muscles. This is the most
common type of CP.
The topography of cerebral palsy describes how CP effects
the body and is based on what areas of the brain are affected.
Diplegia: the legs are more affected than the upper body
Hemiplegia: one side of the body is affected only (e.g. left
arm and leg only).
Quadriplegia: all limbs are affected.
Cerebral Palsy is the most common permanent physical disability
of childhood. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC),
about 1 in 323 children has been diagnosed with CP. Cerebral
Palsy is more common in boys than in girls, and an overwhelming
majority of children with CP have spastic CP, one of the four
types of the disorder. Many children also have at least one
co-occurring condition including epilepsy and ASD.
There are three causes of cerebral palsy:
Prenatal: This accounts for about 70% of the cases and may
be caused by infection, lack of oxygen, toxins, Rh
disease, genetics or congenital malformation of the brain.
Natal: (5-10%) and may be caused by lack of oxygen, a
metabolic cause or a traumatic delivery.
Postnatal: This means it is acquired after birth due to
trauma to the brain by an accident, infection or a toxin.
As with most developmental disabilities, the outcome for a child
with CP can be dramatically improved with early intervention and
treatment. There is no cure for CP, but treatments can improve
the outlook for many children. Symptoms vary from person to
person. Some people with CP are able to live very independent
lives with no special equipment. Others may use a wheelchair or
other equipment and need lifelong support. CP does not
progress or get worse over time, but as a person grows, changes,
and ages, their needs and symptoms may change.
Occupational therapy can help with posture, mobility fine
motor and daily living skill development. Physical therapy
can help to prevent muscles from weakening and rigid
contractures, Adaptive equipment can assist people with CP
to become mobile and comfortable and sometimes surgical
intervention can improve muscle function.
American Academy of Cerebral
Palsy and Developmental Medicine The American Academy of
Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine is dedicated to
improvement in the care of people with childhood-onset
disability, their families, and communities. Their website offers
various resources for individuals and families, including a
directory of providers.