What Is Cerebral Palsy?


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Cerebral palsy is a condition that many people don’t understand or are unfamiliar with. It’s important to have awareness of any condition, regardless of whether it impacts you or not. 

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If you’re reading this, you may have a child with cerebral palsy, a friend, a colleague or someone else - or you may simple want to learn more about the condition without any specific cause. Here’s some more information that can help you with this.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Let’s start with a simple definition to help us answer what is cerebral palsy? Cerebral palsy (also referred to as “CP”) is a group of disorders that can affect a person’s ability to move, maintain balance and maintain their posture. You may not be aware of this, but cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood. The name of the condition stems from the word “cerebral” which pertains to a condition affecting the brain and “palsy”, which means weakness or problems with using the muscles.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Generally speaking, cerebral palsy, or CP, is caused by one of two things. This is either abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain. Both result in a negative impact on an individual being able to control their muscles.

What Are the Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?

More often than not, cerebral palsy is diagnosed shortly following birth. But it does show symptoms wbich can help medical professionals to officially diagnose it. It’s important to note that the symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary from one person to another. They also differ in severity. Some who has severe cerebral palsy might need to use special equipment to be able to walk, or might not be able to walk at all. They may require a wheelchair, a motorised wheelchair or lifelong, around the clock care. It is also, however, to have mild CP. They may walk with difficulty or a little awkwardly, but might not require any assistance or help leading an independent life.

Does Cerebral Palsy Get Worse With Time?

Someone’s severity of CP remains the same over the course of their life. This is not a degenerative condition, which means that CP does not get worse over time. However, it is important to note that the symptoms of cerebral palsy can change over time.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are four common types of CP. These are spastic cerebral palsy, dyskinetic cerebrla palsy, ataxic cerebral palsy and mixed cerebral palsy.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

This is the most common type of CP, affecting a significant 80% of people with CP. It is associated with muscle stiffness, resulting from increased muscle tone. Movements can be awkward and this form of CP is generally specified by which part of the body the muscle stiffness affects. For example, spastic diplegia/diparesis sees muscle stiffness is mainly in the legs. The individual’s arms may be completely unaffected. Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis refers to a form of CP that only affects one side of the body. In this case, one arm tends to be impacted more than the leg. Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis is considered the most serve form of CP, as it affects all limbs, as well as the main body and often the face. This can also result in issues with speech.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

This form of CP tends to result in issues with the control of movement. It can affect movement control in the hands, arms, feet and legs. This can result in difficulty sitting or walking. It affects individuals differently, with some people experiencing slow movement and others experiencing rapid or unexpected movement.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

This form of CP tends to result in issues with balance and coordination. You may find that individuals with ataxic CP are unsteady or more likely to trip when walking. Sometimes, they may find difficulty with writing, as this requires too much concentrated movement that is small and requires a steady hand.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

Some people can experience multiple types of CP. The most common combination is spastic-dyskinetic CP.


If you’d like to understand more about CP, or are unsure how to look after someone with severe CP, it’s important to be aware that there are many sources of support out there. Make sure to reach out to charities, helplines and support groups, as well as following advice from your doctor. This will help you to provide the care and support required.

Hopefully, some of the information above serves as a good introduction to cerebral palsy in all its different forms!


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