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Cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition which is caused by a brain injury before birth or sometimes during delivery, which can happen if a baby is starved of oxygen during birth. The condition can cause varying degrees of disability from mild to severe – and movement is affected, so in severe cases a person may have very limited movement, or any movement may be affected by muscle spasms or limbs may be rigid.

Depending on the area of the brain which has sustained injury, speech, sight, hearing and cognitive skills may also be affected.

Types of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy can take the form of three different patterns which affect muscle function and movement:

·         Ataxic cerebral palsy affects balance and walking and perceptions of the space around a person. Patients may be unsteady on their feet or adopt an unusual posture with widely spaced feet and legs when they walk. Ataxic CP can also make reaching for objects difficult and the patient may also suffer from tremors.

·         Athetoid/dyskinetic (ADCP) affects up a one-fifth of cerebral palsy patients and causes limbs, hands, feet and face or mouth to writhe. Patients may also drool, experience unusual facial spasms or have problems with speech if the facial muscles have been affected by a brain injury

·         Spasticity is the most widely known form of cerebral palsy and affects around 80% of cerebral palsy patients. Spasticity causes contraction in muscles, involuntary movement of muscles and shaking or body tremors. Muscle contraction results in the knees being turned inwards when the patient walks. The three types of spastic cerebral palsy are quadriplegia (all four limbs affected), hemiplegia (both limbs affected on just one side of the body) and diplegia (either legs or arms are affected).

Brain injury can mean that the individual has problems communicating – they may know what they want to say but the damaged part of the brain cannot process the thought into actual speech.

But people with cerebral palsy are no less intelligent than their peers and also possess distinctive personalities, just like everyone else. Cerebral palsy does not mean that a child will not develop likes and dislikes, talents, skills and their own unique personality traits, or will be able to play a role within the family.

Children and cerebral palsy

The first signs of cerebral palsy usually appear within the first 12 months of a baby’s life – and parents may at first notice that their baby may not respond to sight or sound, may not be able to grasp toys, or may roll over onto one side instead of being able to develop an upright posture and move normally. How a baby is affected will depend on which area of the brain has suffered damage.

Children with cerebral palsy will benefit from early assessment and medical intervention – and many children adapt to their condition remarkably well and become active and engaged in life in ways which may exceed parents’ initial fears and expectations.

New technology can now predict the sort of aids a child with cerebral palsy may need as they grow, including mobility devices or modifications to the home or aids to help mobility at school or work.

Long term effects of cerebral palsy

In cerebral palsy patients, the brain damage sustained during pregnancy or birth does not get any worse, but other health issues may develop as a result of the disability – for example a high risk for osteoporosis (brittle bones) and/or fractures or hip dislocation if the legs are affected.

People with cerebral palsy also have a normal life expectancy although those with very severe disability may require 24/7 care.


 


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01/30/2014 10:30am

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