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Cerebral Palsy: Home

This guide provides resources about Cerebral palsy.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Neurological Disorders, Cerebral palsy is the term used for a "group of progressive disorders of movement and posture caused by abnormal development of, or damage to, motor control centers of the brain." These damages to the motor control center of the brain can cause muscle control abnormalities, which are also often accompanied by other neurological and physical abnormalities. Generally, Cerebral palsy is caused by events before, during, or after birth. Cerebral palsy is not a specific condition but is "more accurately considered a description of a broad but defined group of neurological and physical problems." Furthermore, symptoms and severity of the condition can vary from individual to individual. 

Who is Affected by Cerebral Palsy?

  • Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood
  • About 1 in 323 children have been identified with Cerebral palsy 
  • Cerebral palsy is more common among boys 
  • Most of the children with Cerebral palsy have spastic Cerebral palsy
  • Many children with Cerebral palsy also have at least one co-occurring condition, such as epilepsy or Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Over half of children with Cerebral palsy can walk independently. Roughly 11% walk using a hand-held mobility device and 30% have limited or no walking ability
  • Children born preterm are five times more at risk for Cerebral palsy than those born at term

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What Are Some Common Causes of Cerebral Palsy?

  • Brain injuries received during a traumatic birth, known as birth asphyxia
  • Errors in brain development during the prenatal period
  • Neurological injury sustained after birth, usually caused by serious illnesses
  • Serious infections, such as meningitis or encephalitis, can cause irreversible damage to the brain
  • Rarely, genetic factors can contribute to neurological damage, which in turn can cause Cerebral palsy
  • Physical trauma to an infant or child, resulting in a brain injury
  • Ingestion of toxic substances (like lead or mercury) at a young age 

Note on Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy

Diagnosing Cerebral palsy at an early age is essential in providing the best care for affected children. While there is no cure, early intervention can improve the well-being of both the children and their families. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines three steps towards diagnosing Cerebral palsy: 

  • Developmental Monitoring: Tracking a child's growth and development over time
  • Developmental Screening: Testing young children for specific developmental delays, such as motor or movement delays
  • Developmental and Medical Evaluations: Primary care physicians will carefully study the child's medical history, monitoring and screening. After eliminating other developmental conditions, physicians may suggest additional brain imaging tests. 

Generally, children are diagnosed between the ages of one or two, but if symptoms and developmental delays are mild, it can be difficult to diagnose until the child is older. 


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