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Cerebral Palsy (CP) isn't a particular disease or illness. The term simply means a physical condition that affects movement, as a result of an injury to the brain.

Every person with CP is affected in a different way and has their own personal pattern of movement problems

Even then it's a useless label, as every person with CP is affected in a different way

Around one in every 500 children born in the UK develops CP.

There are several different types of CP and while some people are severely affected, others have only minor disruption, depending on which parts of the brain have been damaged.


Spastic Cerebral Palsy - Some of the muscles in the body are tight, stiff and weak, especially when the person tries to use them, making control of movement difficult.

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy - Control of muscles is disrupted by spontaneous and unwanted movements. Control of posture is also disrupted.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy - problems include difficulty with balance, shaky movements of hands or feet, and difficulty with speech.


Problems using and controlling muscles, causing difficulty with walking, writing, eating, talking, dressing.

Problems with balance and coordination

Difficulty controlling and maintaining posture (they may need help to sit upright)

Visual Impairment

Hearing problems

Learning difficulties

Epilepsy (this affects as many as one in three children with CP)

A common belief is that people with CP inevitably have learning difficulties. This misunderstanding may have arisen because people with CP can have problems controlling their facial movements and speech, and it can be difficult to understand them at first. However, just like in the rest of the population, there's a range of intelligence. Some people with CP have moderate or even severe learning difficulties, while others are extremely intelligent.


Most people think of Cerebral Palsy as a condition caused by problems during birth. However, although it's now accepted that complications during labour and birth are important factors in a minority of cases, they're not the only cause. It's thought they're responsible for about one in ten cases.

It's easier to think of CP as a condition where a part of the brain hasn't developed properly. This might be because of a variety of events occurring before, during or after the birth. So, it may be the result of problems with blood supply to the baby's brain during the birth, but it may also happen while the baby is still growing in the womb.

Better antenatal care has meant fewer babies are born with CP due to birth trauma, but this has been offset by the improved survival of premature and low birthweight babies, who may be up to 50 times more at risk of CP.

Genetic factors may also predispose a child to CP, while infections when a baby is young (especially encephalitis or meningitis) can also lead to this condition. In a number of cases it's difficult to pin down the exact cause with any certainty.

Smoking, drugs, alcohol, placental problems, toxaemia and infection during pregnancy, childbirth complications, prematurity and infection increase the risk of a child developing CP and so should be avoided as much as possible.

There's no cure for Cerebral Palsy - Science hasn't yet developed a way to repair damage to the brain. But there are plenty of treatments and therapies that can reduce the impact of the condition, by easing symptoms such as spasticity, improving communication skills or finding other ways to do things.

Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language therapy can all play an important part.

Children with CP do best when they get special help from an early age. Because the brain can change a lot during the first few years of life, it can be difficult to assess the extent of CP at first, but most doctors suggest that babies should be first assessed at about nine to 12 months.

Many children with CP have Special Educational Needs.

Many children with CP have benefited from an approach known as Conductive Education, which helps them to overcome the movement problems and gain some control through special education and rehab. But the benefits don't stop as the child gets older, adults can get a lot from it, too.

Speech and Language therapy helps with speech development and also with eating, drinking, and swallowing. Surgery is sometimes needed to correct any deformities that develop as a result of abnormal muscle development or function.

Drugs can be given to reduce muscle spasticity and muscle hyperactivity, but physiotherapy is the main part of CP management and helps with posture and movement. It also tries to prevent progression of the disability.

Occupational Therapy helps children overcome difficulties performing everyday tasks, encouraging them to lead independent lives.

With help, most people with CP are able to live much the same sort of life as everyone else, in terms of school, friends, hobbies and sports, building a career and having a family. They may have to work a bit harder to overcome practical problems, but most things are possible.

For advice and support in England and Wales go to http://www.scope.org.uk/

Scottish Residents http://www.capability-scotland.org.uk/

**Please Note...This is for information purposes only and NOT a diagnosis. Please see your own doctor if you think your child may be affected**

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