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What is Cerebral Palsy?

“Cerebral” means brain and “palsy” refers to muscle weakness and poor muscle control. Cerebral Palsy is a problem with movement and posture that makes certain activities difficult.[1] Cerebral palsy involves at least one limb as well as the trunk.  It can be accompanied by speech and language delays, seizure disorders, cognitive deficits, and vision or hearing issues.

Cerebral Palsy occurs most often due to prematurity, low birth weight, maternal infection, decreased oxygen during birth, or severe jaundice. Overall, 70% of cerebral palsy is due to a prenatal cause, 20% occurs during birth, and 10% occurs after birth due to a brain infection or head injury. Further, ten thousand children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year which means that 2 out of every 1,000 children will develop cerebral palsy.

It is not a disease. It is not progressive and it is not contagious.[2] This means that the brain will not get worse. The signs and symptoms usually improve with treatment. Therapy plays a major role in the lives of children with cerebral palsy. Treatment has immediate and life-long effects and can be cost effective (Olney & Wright, 1994).

Children who receive the right therapy early on often have better outcomes. Treatment of children is specialized. Decisions about the many medical interventions that children with cerebral palsy need such as orthopedic surgery, botox, spasticity management, bracing, and assistive devices are often influenced by the child’s physical therapist. Good therapy not only helps the child, but also has a positive influence on the child’s family, school, community (King et al, 1998).

Other helpful references for information on Cerebral Palsy include: Kid's Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, My Child without Limits, and United Cerebral Palsy.


[1] Retrieved December 15, 2011 from My Child without Limits,
[2] Retrieved December 15, 2011 from United Cerebral Palsy, © 2011 • Privacy PolicyTerms Of Use

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