Cerebral Palsy

Special Needs > Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a set of neurological conditions that affect movement. It is the most common form of childhood disability. Often, symptoms include poor coordination, stiff muscles, weak muscles, and tremors. There may be problems with sensation, vision, hearing, swallowing, and speaking. Often babies with cerebral palsy do not roll over, sit, crawl, or walk as early as other children of their age. Other symptoms include seizures and problems with thinking or reasoning, each of which occurs in about one third of people with CP.

Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development or damage to the parts of the brain that control movement, balance and posture. Most often the problems occur during pregnancy; however, they may also occur during childbirth, or shortly after birth. Often the cause is unknown. Risk factors include preterm birth, being a twin, certain infections during pregnancy such as toxoplasmosis or rubella, exposure to methylmercury during pregnancy, a difficult delivery, and head trauma during the first few years of life, among others.

Cerebral palsy is not contagious, it does not necessarily affect intelligence or cognitive ability, and it is not progressive, so it does not get worse with age. Some people find that symptoms improve over time. People with cerebral palsy tend to have a normal lifespan, and in many cases, a good quality of life can be expected.

Most of the causes of cerebral palsy do not have specific, curative treatments. However, children with cerebral palsy present many medical problems that can be treated or prevented. The initial stage of treatment involves an interdisciplinary team, consisting of a pediatrician, preferable one with experience in neuro developmental disorders, a neurologist, a mental health practitioner, an orthopedic surgeon, a physical therapist, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist. Each member of the team has important, independent contributions to make in the care of the affected child.