Cerebral Palsy is a group of disorders caused by an injury to the brain before, during, or shortly after birth. In many cases, it
is not known for sure what caused the brain injury. Cerebral Palsy (CP) is used to describe a medical condition that affects
control of the muscles. Cerebral means anything in the head and palsy refers to the inability of control to muscles or joints in
Cerebral Palsy covers a spectrum of symptoms which vary in severity. A child with cerebral palsy may have difficulty with
fine motor skills, such as writing, gross motor skills (sustaining balance and walking), or be affected by involuntary
movements, such as uncontrollable hand gestures. The symptoms differ from one child to the next, and may even change
over time. Some cerebral palsy sufferers are also affected by a few medical disorders, including seizures or mental impairment.
There are four types of Cerebral Palsy (CP): Spastic, Athetoid, Ataxic, and Mixed.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy: Children with spastic (CP) have stiff and tense movements caused by muscles which are too tight
(high muscles tone). This causes difficulties when moving from one bodily position to another or letting loose an object held
in their hand. Spastic Cerebral Palsy is the most common type. This form of cerebral palsy affects 50% or more of children
who suffer from (CP) and commonly seen in low weight or premature babies.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: Distinctive by poor coordination and loose muscle tone (low muscle tone), children with this
particular form of the condition look very unsteady and shaky. They experience extreme shakiness the majority of the time but
this can become more apparent when trying to perform fine movements such as turning the page of a book. Poor balance is
also a problem for these children and they may be unsteady when they walk. The ataxic form affects an estimated 5 to 10
percent of children who have (CP).
Athetoid or Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy: This means a mixture of muscle tone which is too tight or loose. Here the child
has trouble holding themselves in an upright, steady position for sitting or walking, and often show lots of movements of their
face, arms and upper body which is involuntary. Other uncontrollable features are turning, twisting, facial grimacing, and
drooling. This is due to an ever changing level of muscle tone. Athetoid cerebral palsy affects about 30 percent of children
Mixed Cerebral Palsy: Occurs when two or more types of cerebral palsy are present in the one child. Statistics will say
that mixed cerebral palsy accounts for 10% of all cases of cerebral palsy, but the actual percentage may be more. The
incidence of mixed cerebral palsy has been rising due to better diagnostic techniques.
Cerebral palsy is generally recognized in the early years, as developmental delays becomes apparent. Though various kinds of
medical scans can help doctors identify some brain abnormalities, the disorder is most often seen in its symptoms.
Early Signs of Cerebral Palsy
1. Favoring one side of the body over the other
2. Poor muscle control and lack of coordination
3. Muscle spasms or seizures
4. Oral problems such as sucking, chewing, and swallowing
5. Unusual tightness and irritability in infancy
6. Inability to control bladder and bowels (incontinence)
7. Difficulty in speaking
8. Difficulty in concentrating, which has adverse effects on learning
9. Trouble in interpreting sense perceptions, such as inability to identify objects by touch
10. Other problems with the senses, especially hearing and vision
Some of children may show serious symptoms at birth; some may not show any signs for a long time. Most children with
cerebral palsy are diagnosed by age 5. It is important to diagnose the disorder early so that therapy can minimize handicaps,
learning is not hindered, and the child (and parents) can adapt more readily.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Causes of why cerebral palsy occur varies. Approximately 58% of the cases of cerebral palsy occurred in children who were
born at full term and full weight, and in whom doctors see no cause of brain damage, at the present time and technology.
However, studies have shown that several conditions are risk factors for cerebral palsy, not necessarily leading to, but
increasing the risk that the unborn child will have it.
• Infections in the mother during pregnancy, including rubella (German measles); sexually transmitted diseases such as
gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis; and other bacterial and viral infections, some of which attack the baby's nervous system.
• Premature birth.
• Low birth weight, though some infants who weighed under 2 pounds at birth and spent months in neonatal intensive care
have been unimpaired.
• Difficult or abnormal delivery, especially awkward fetal position, lengthy or too abrupt
labor, or obstruction of the umbilical cord.
• Hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen, in the brain, for a variety of reasons, such as premature separation of the placenta during
delivery or swelling of the brain due to illness.
• Incompatibility between parents' and fetus's blood types, especially Rh incompatibility.
• Jaundice of the newborn or hyperbilirubinemia (liver problems), sometimes associated with Rh incompatibility.
• Medications and drug abuse taken by the mother
• Lead poisoning
• Smoking by the mother
• Alcohol abuse by the mother
No cure exists for cerebral palsy, but various kinds of therapies are used to help each child do as much as he or she is capable
of achieving. Among these are:
Physical therapy - the use of therapeutic exercises and activities to extend the child's range of controlled movement,
generally focusing on gross motor skills. Bobath techniques are used, where exercises focus on countering primitive reflexes
and then on extending the range of voluntary movement. With the help of behavior modification, offering positive
reinforcement to help children act against the body's awkward inclinations. Physical therapists also help children learn how to
use orthopedic devices, such as wheelchairs and walkers.
Biofeedback - in which children are given information about the functioning of a particular part of the body, often by
electrical machines that produce visual or auditory signals, and are taught to concentrate on changing the visual picture or
sound. Through such techniques, children with cerebral palsy can gain increased control over movements and are sometimes
able to do things like drink from a cup or control their bladder, skills that previously were beyond their reach.
Occupational therapy - the use of therapeutic exercises and activities to extend the child's range of controlled movement,
generally focusing on fine motor skills, many of them self-help skills. For children that may mean learning how to dress
themselves, comb their hair, brush their teeth, drink from a cup, or hold a pen or pencil. For young adults that includes
preparation for living as self-sufficiently and independently as possible (vocational rehabilitation services).
Speech and language therapy - can help children overcome some speech and hearing impairments, and also learn to use the
great variety of mechanical and electronic devices that have been developed to help them, such as voice synthesizers or
specially adapted computers .
Medication - including muscle relaxants for spastic muscles and anti-seizure drugs, if epilepsy is involved. Drugs are best
used sparingly, however, since the long-term side effects on the already-damaged and still-developing nervous system are
Orthopedic devices - such as wheelchairs, walkers, page-turners, specially equipped automobiles, and the like.
Many physical therapists stress that a varied and stimulating environment is in itself a powerful "treatment" for the child . Also
important to both child and family are counseling, which can offer emotional support and relief of stress, advice on handling
practical problems, and training to prepare for the future, as the child grows into an adult. Many public and private
organizations also provide financial assistance, diagnostic and treatment centers, vocational training and guidance, respite care
for families of children with cerebral palsy, special recreational facilities, adapted work settings, and adapted living
Early identification of cerebral palsy can lessen developmental problems and lead to appropriate intervention which makes a
huge impact in the child’s life. Early intervention programs are family-centered professionals and families work together with
the child in specific activities. Educators, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, speech- language pathologists,
psychologists and physicians can assist families by providing information and education.
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