QUICK REFERENCE: Definitions | How the body is affected | What causes CP? | 10 facts about CP
Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a blanket term used to describe various non-progressive (the condition does not worsen) disorders impairing control of movement, posture or muscle control. These appear in the first few years of life and are a result of developmental defects, injury or damage to parts of the brain that control gross or motor functioning.
Spasticity means stiffness or tightness of muscles. It does not refer to intellectual disability. The muscles are stiff and do not move in a normal manner because messages are being incorrectly relayed to them from the damaged parts of the brain.
People with this kind of cerebral palsy have muscles that change rapidly from floppy to tense. Speech may be difficult to understand because of difficulty controlling the tongue muscle, breathing and vocal cords. This may cause extraneous movements in limbs when movement is attempted, and may result in an overflow of movement when someone’s emotions are increased or intensified.
This kind of cerebral palsy effects balance and co-ordination. This is a result of the cerebellum being damaged. Poor muscle tone, unsteady, shaky movements and a tendency to under or overreach is also symptomatic of Ataxia.
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HOW THE BODY IS AFFECTED
The leg and arm on one side of the body are affected. This is the most common form of cerebral palsy. People with Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy usually become quite independent and learn to walk, but generally have a limp and may not be able to use one arm as well as the other.
Legs and arms on both sides of the body are affected. This type occurs most commonly after pre-term birth and although the arms are less affected, these people can have difficulties using their hands to manipulate objects. Those with Diplegia may learn to walk for short distances but often require assistance such as a wheelchair or walker for longer distances.
Both legs and arms are affected. People with this form of cerebral palsy are less likely to be able to walk or sit unaided. Epilepsy, learning difficulties, visual and sensory defects are more common within this group.
Some individuals may exhibit a combination of the above types of cerebral palsy.
Whilst certain conditions do occur more frequently in people with cerebral palsy, every individual is different and will not necessarily have any of the following:
- People with cerebral palsy may have difficulties with sleeping or toileting.
- Cerebral palsy can affect speech and/or chewing and swallowing.
- Some individuals may develop epilepsy. Medication is often used to control this.
- Sometimes individuals with cerebral palsy have difficulty processing information about shapes, speed and space, which is often referred to as a visual or spatial perception difficulty.
- Some people with cerebral palsy may have learning difficulties or a specific learning difficulty with one kind of activity such as reading, writing or maths.
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WHAT CAUSES CP?
Sometimes there is no obvious single reason why a person has cerebral palsy. The causes of cerebral palsy can be multiple and complex.
Known possible causes include:
- An infection in the early part of pregnancy
- A difficult or premature birth
- A cerebral (brain) “bleed”, more likely following a premature birth
- An infection or accident affecting the brain in the early years of a child’s life
- Abnormal brain development
- A genetic link, although this is quite rare
- Depravation of oxygen during birth
If a person has cerebral palsy, it means that part of the child’s developing brain has been damaged before, during or just after birth. No two people are affected in quite the same way. Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability amongst children. Although cerebral palsy is a permanent condition, as a child learns, grows and practices skills, more control of movement can be achieved.
If a person has cerebral palsy, it means that they will have limited control over certain muscles and the way in which they can be moved. Cerebral palsy is not a degenerative condition.
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10 FACTS ABOUT CP
1. “Cerebral palsy” (CP) refers to permanent damage of the developing brain, which affects muscle control.
2. Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood, affecting one in every 400 children.
3. Cerebral palsy is not genetic or hereditary, it is a non-degenerative condition, and the incidents and severity are on the increase.
4. Prenatal events are now thought to be responsible for approximately 75% of cases of cerebral palsy.
5. Cerebral palsy is a life long permanent disability and many people with CP are healthy and can expect a normal life span.
6. No two people with cerebral palsy are the same, and symptoms range from very mild to very severe and everything in between.
7. Hearing, vision, speech, epilepsy and intellectual disability are commonly associated with cerebral palsy.
8. Incidents and severity of cerebral palsy are on the increase, there is no pre birth test or known cure.
9. In Australia, a child with cerebral palsy is born every 15 hours.
10. World-wide more than 15 million people have cerebral palsy, 20,000 of these are in Australia.
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