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What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is a condition that affects muscle control and movement. It usually results from damage or injury to the developing brain, before, during or after birth. The main causes of Cerebral Palsy are:

• Infection in early pregnancy
• Lack of oxygen to the brain
• Abnormal brain development
• A genetic link (this is very rare)

Children with Cerebral Palsy have difficulties in controlling muscles and movements as they grow and develop. Sometimes the movements can be unpredictable, muscles can be stiff or tight and in some cases people can have shaky movements or tremors.

Cerebral Palsy is usually diagnosed within the first 12 – 18 months of life. The condition presents when children don’t reach the movement milestones.

There is no cure or pre-birth test for Cerebral Palsy. It is a permanent physical condition. The effects of Cerebral Palsy can vary greatly in each case and the condition can alter over time – there may be improvements but the severity of the condition may also increase. There are therapies that can often help people to become more independent and reduce the impact of the disability, overall improving the quality of life.

Cerebral Palsy is the most common form of childhood physical disability in the UK. It’s estimated that as many as 1 in every 400 children may have Cerebral Palsy. This means nearly 2,000 babies, from all social backgrounds and ethnic groups, are diagnosed every year.

The chances of having a child with Cerebral Palsy can be increased by factors such as:

• Difficult or premature birth
• Twins or multiple birth
• Mother’s age being below 20 or over 40
• Father under 20
• First child or fifth (or more) child
• Baby of low birth weight (less than 2.5 pounds)
• Premature birth

There are four main types of C.P. many people with C.P. will have a mixture of these:

Dyskinetic C.P. (Athetoid) often have unpredictable movements.

Spastic C.P. often have stiffness or tightness of muscles.

Ataxic C.P. often have unsteady shaky movements or tremors.

Dystonic C.P. affects trunk more than limbs.

Cerebral Palsy affects everyone differently. It can be as mild as just a weakness in one hand which is barely noticeable to almost complete lack of movement and requiring help with many aspects of daily living. Some people with Cerebral Palsy may also have speech, hearing, learning and visual disability.