Cerebral Palsy Basics

Cerebral Palsy is a frightening diagnosis, and I’m sure you have thousands of questions about it. But before getting into what cerebral palsy means and how it can impact a child’s life, it’s important to know that parents of children with cerebral palsy are not alone. CP is more prevalent than most people think.

In fact, it’s the most common cause of physical disability in childhood.  More than 8,000 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year!

But common doesn't always mean "simple." Each child's needs will be unique since cerebral palsy affects everyone differently.

Cerebral palsy, CP for short, is a brain disorder, which means that there’s nothing wrong with the child’s arms or legs. Rather, the brain is damaged in a way that it doesn’t send the right information to the different parts of the body.

Additionally, the damage to the brain is permanent, which means children with CP will have it for the rest of their lives. But, that doesn’t mean that they have to live a limited life.  Even with all the challenges that children with cerebral palsy face, they can often lead normal or near normal lives with early intervention and therapy.

Most of the challenges caused by CP are due to a “motor deficiency,” which is a lack of physical control over the body. For example, daily activities that most people find easy, like walking, brushing teeth, and drawing, can be challenging for a child with CP.

There are three forms of Cerebral Palsy

  1. Spastic: The most common is Spastic CP, which causes muscles to become more stiff than usual, making it hard for a child to move around comfortably.
  2. Athetoid CP:  It causes children to have involuntary movements
  3. Ataxic CP: It affects a child's sense of balance and ability to recognize the distance of objects around them. This can make tasks like walking very difficult.

There are also varying levels of severity within each of these forms. Some children may only have a few tense muscles, making it difficult or painful to walk normally, while others may not be able to walk at all.

No matter which type of cerebral palsy a child has, and to what degree, rest assured that there are countless resources for parents to help their children live a healthy and happy life.

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