What You Need to Know About Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood, and these children need support. Professionals who serve young children play an important role in identifying the early signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in childhood, and these children and their families need support. Professionals who serve young children, from early childhood educators to pediatricians, play an important role in identifying the early signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy so that children can be connected to the services and supports they need. Find out more about cerebral palsy and what you can do to help children with cerebral palsy get identified early.
What is cerebral palsy?
CP is a group of disorders that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles. The specific cause of most cases of CP is unknown.
How does cerebral palsy impact children?
CDC estimates that about 1 in every 323 children living in multiple communities in the United States has cerebral palsy. CDC’s estimate comes from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, which tracks the number and characteristics of 8-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities in diverse communities through the United States. Based on our most recent report on children who were 8-years-old and living in ADDM CP Network communities in 2008, we know that:
- CP is more common among boys than girls.
- CP is more common among Black children than White children. Hispanic and White children are about equally likely to have CP.
- Most (77%) of the children identified with CP have spastic CP. This means their muscles are stiff and, as a result, their movements can appear awkward.
- Over half (58%) of the children identified with CP could walk independently.
- Many of the children with CP also have at least one co-occurring condition—41% have co-occurring epilepsy and almost 7% have co-occurring autism spectrum disorder.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms and functioning of each person with CP varies. CP does not get worse over time, but the exact symptoms can change over a person’s lifetime. From birth to 5 years of age, a child should reach movement goals—also known as milestones—such as rolling over, sitting up, standing, and walking. A delay in reaching these movement milestones could be a sign of CP. The following are some other early signs of CP.
- A child with CP who is less than 6 months old:
- Might feel stiff
- Might feel floppy
- When held cradled in your arms, the child might seem to overextend his/her neck and back, constantly acting as if he/she is pushing away from you
- When you pick the child up from lying on the back, his/her head might fall backwards
- When you pick up the child, his/her legs might get stiff and cross or scissor
- A child with CP who is more than 6 months old:
- Might not roll over in either direction
- Might not be able to bring his/her hands together
- Might have trouble bringing the hands to his/her mouth
- Might reach out with only one hand while keeping the other fisted
- A child with CP who is more than 1 years old:
- Might not crawl
- Might not be able to stand with support
How can professionals who serve young children help?
You spend your day working with children, and you are probably already familiar with many milestones—such as pointing at objects, smiling, and playing with others—that mark a child’s development. All children are unique, but sooner or later, you will see a child who is not developing as he or she should. You are a valuable resource to families! They look to you for information on their child, and they trust you. Encourage the families you work with to track their child’s development, including movement milestones, and get help if they are concerned. You can also encourage the child’s family to contact the local early intervention system (birth to age 3 years) or local school system (3 years and older) for an evaluation.
It is also important to remember that a child with CP may have other conditions that can make it difficult for him or her to carry out daily activities and participate at home, in school, and in the community. Professionals who serve young children can help identify signs of CP as well as the other developmental disabilities or neurological conditions that children with CP often have, such as epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder. Identifying both cerebral palsy and other co-occurring conditions early can help ensure that children are screened and connected to the appropriate services and supports they need to address each condition.
Early Signs of Cerebral Palsy
The signs of Cerebral Palsy usually appear in the early months of life, although specific diagnosis may be delayed until age two or later. Infants with CP frequently have developmental delays, in which they are slow to reach developmental milestones such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl, or walk. Some infants with CP have abnormal muscle tone. Decreased muscle tone (hypotonia) can make them appear relaxed, or even floppy. Increased muscle tone (hypertonia) can make them seem stiff or rigid. In some cases, an early period of hypotonia will progress to hypertonia after the first 2 to 3 months of life. Children with CP may also have unusual posture or favor one side of the body when they reach, crawl, or move. It is important to note that some children without CP also might have some of these signs.
Some early warning signs:
In a Baby Younger Than 6 Months of Age
- The head droops when you pick them up while they’re lying on their back
- They feel stiff
- They feel floppy
- When you pick them up, their legs get stiff and their legs cross or scissor
In a Baby Older Than 6 Months of Age
- They don’t roll over in either direction
- They cannot bring their hands together
- They have difficulty bringing their hands to their mouth
- They reach out with only one hand while keeping the other fisted
In a Baby Older Than 10 Months of Age
- They crawl in a lopsided manner, pushing off with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg
9 Important Facts About Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy consists of a group of disorders which affect the ability of someone to maintain their balance keep their posture, or move. It is the most common motor disability that affects children. Even though it has the term “cerebral” in it, there isn’t anything actually wrong with the mind. This motor disability refers to having a weakness or problem while using the muscles. All people who have CP have some form of difficult, ranging from mild to severe. These important facts will help you get to know the people first by understanding more about their condition.
1. CP Has Four Different Types
The type of cerebral palsy that someone has is classified according to the type of movement disorder that afflicts them. This might involve having stiff muscles, movements that are uncontrollable, or having poor coordination and balance. Someone with cerebral palsy might have a spastic version of the disorder, a dyskinetic version, ataxic, or a mixed version that includes components of more than one movement issue.
2. Spastic CP Is the Most Common
This spastic version of cerebral palsy affects about 80% of the people who have this disorder. This makes it the most common type of CP and it is usually described by the body parts that it is affecting. It may cause stiffness in the legs primarily, affect only one side of the body, just the arms, or all of the limbs and even the face.
The spastic quadriplegia or quadriparesis version of cerebral palsy is the most severe form of this type of the disability. People who have this version typically have numerous developmental disability, may have issues with their senses, and often have seizures. They may also be unable to walk at all.
3. Dyskinetic CP Creates Jerky Movements
People with this form of cerebral palsy struggle to control their movements. They will have varying degrees of uncontrollable limb movements that can make it look like they are writhing in pain. Sometimes these movements can be slow and rhythmic, while at other times it might be rapid and all over the place. The tongue can also be affected and a person’s muscle tone with this version of CP can actually change over the course of a day.
4. Ataxic CP Involves a Lack of Balance
For those with the ataxic version of cerebral palsy, their primary struggle is with their balance and fine motor skills. They may be unable to walk without assistance or hold something without dropping it involuntarily. Holding a pen to write something down might be a virtually impossible task to complete. People with this version of CP are usually the most independent of those diagnosed with this motor disability.
5. CP Can Be Diagnosed Early On
Because the symptoms and signs of cerebral palsy can vary greatly between people, watching how a child develops can lead to an early diagnosis and treatment plan. Parents might notice that their child is not achieving the normal movement and motor milestones as they prepare for their well-child appointments. Standing, sitting up, or even rolling over may be greatly delayed in children with this disability. A child who feels stiff or floppy, has a head that lags when picked up after lying on their back, or feels like they are always trying to push away from you could be exhibiting the signs of CP under the age of 6 months.
After the 6 month age milestone, lagging behind in motor and movement skills, especially with a refusal to crawl, could be an indicator of CP. It is important to note that the signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy can also occur in children who do not have this disability at all.
6. Most CP Is Congenital
The reason why cerebral palsy exists is because the brain has been affected in some way that it no longer processes the movement and balance the way that it should. Up to 90% of the cases of CP are considered to be congenital, or happening before or during the birthing process. Many times the reason behind the development of CP is unknown.
A rare form of cerebral palsy occurs when an infection occurs after a child reaches the 1 month mark. Injuries or an infection, like meningitis, can create lifelong cerebral palsy. This is considered an acquired version of the disability.
Although any high risk pregnancy has the possibility of CP with it, as does any pregnancy to some extent, children that are born with a low birth weight have a 100x greater risk of developing cerebral palsy than children who have a normal birthweight.
7. CP Can Often Be Preventable
Although some of the reasons behind the development of cerebral palsy are unknown and some cases occur because of an Rh incompatibility, many of the issues behind this disability formation are preventable. Jaundice, an infection during the pregnancy, trauma during birth, or a lack of oxygen are all believed to contribute to the formation of CP. Because of this, some believe that CP may occur because of medical negligence in a majority of the cases that occur.
8. Medical Errors Can Cause CP
If there are problems with a birth, the medical team will intervene to save the life of the mother and the child. During this intervention, it is not uncommon to create conditions that can create a lifetime of CP for the child due to a medical error. Even a regular birth can create CP if errors are made. For this reasons, doctors have started moving away from tools, such as forceps, that may unintentionally cause damage to the brain as the child is being born.
9. There Isn’t a Cure… Yet
Cerebral palsy can be treated right now with modern medical science, but there is not currently a cure available. The goal is to help caregivers manage the condition so that children are able to reach their full potential and live a fulfilling life. Braces, surgeries, and physical therapy are all common methods to help treat the disorder. These treatments can get to be quite expensive. The average lifetime cost of treating someone with CP is $1 million.
3 Intersting Facts About Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a condition that results from a type of brain injury. It’s usually caused during the birthing process but it’s also sometimes the result of an injury or illness suffered soon after being born. Here are some interesting facts you may not have known.
Three Interesting Cerebral Palsy Facts
Cerebral palsy is a condition that results from a type of brain injury. It’s usually caused during the
birthing process but it’s also sometimes the result of an injury or illness suffered soon after being born.
Here are some interesting facts you may not have known.
1: It’s Not Always Devastating
There are some people with cerebral palsy that you probably wouldn’t notice have the disorder. The
injury is variable in the amount of damage that it does, so some people end up with more or less normal
body function except for episodes when their condition gets worse.
2: It’s Not Always Mentally Impairing
There are plenty of people with cerebral palsy that have their full mental capacities, or very close to
them. Sometimes they have a bit of difficulty with one area of study, but they oftentimes do just as well
as other students. There are plenty of people with CP who ended up outperforming most of their peers
because of their desire to outdo people’s expectations of them, as well.
3: New Information is Being Discovered
There is constantly new information being discovered about this disorder. In fact, most of the people in
the world believe that brain injuries are permanent and never heal. Recent studies, however, have
shown this model of the brain to be flawed and have opened up the possibility of new treatments for
These new understandings and new treatments carry with them a lot of hope for sufferers. Some people
who have never been able to get rid of the shaky walk that’s characteristic of ataxic cerebral palsy, for
instance, may be able to walk more comfortably due to equipment that stimulates the muscles. Other
types of cerebral palsy, such as dyskinetic cerebral palsy, have their own symptoms and may be able to
be treated with different procedures that are being developed.
If you’re interested in these treatments and learning more, United Cerebral Palsy is an excellent
organization that has plenty of information to share. If you’re interested in speaking with someone
because you believed that your child suffered a brain injury due to medical negligence, you need a
lawyer. They’ll sit down and consult with you for free in most cases, so there’s nothing to lose in taking
the time to meet with one and see if they feel that you’re right about your assessment of the role of
Cerebral Palsy, What You Need To Know
While some people believe that the term “cerebral palsy” (CP) refers to a specific disease, it actually refers to a range of disorders involved the control of muscles. Cerebral palsy can be caused by many different problems. About half a million people in the US have some form of cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is usually congenital and becomes evident early in life. However, it can be acquired later, for example, as a result of a head injury. Researchers now believe that congenital cerebral palsy is caused by faulty cell development in the embryo in the early stages of pregnancy. Maternal infection with the rubella virus (German measles) during pregnancy and severe jaundice of the newborn (as from untreated Rh incompatibility) are some of the conditions that have been associated with the development of cerebral palsy.
Children with cerebral palsy usually show symptoms within the first three years of life. They may be slower than their peers in achieving motor milestones like sitting upright, crawling, and walking. Symptoms range from mild and barely noticeable to severe and debilitating, and can include difficulty maintaining balance or walking, problems with fine motor tasks, or uncontrolled involuntary movements. The symptoms vary from person to person and may change over time.
However, cerebral palsy is NOT a progressive condition, meaning that it does not worsen over time. Cerebral palsy can occur by itself in an otherwise entirely normal child or it may be accompanied by other problems (such as, for example, a seizure disorder or mental retardation).
There are three main types of cerebral palsy — spastic cerebral palsy, athetoid cerebral palsy, and mixed cerebral palsy. Spastic cerebral palsy, the most common type, is a condition in which there is too much muscle tone. This tightness results in stiff awkward movements. Athetoid cerebral palsy involves slow uncontrolled movements that involve the entire body, often making it difficult or impossible to walk. Mixed cerebral palsy is a combination of the two.
There is no specific cure for cerebral palsy, but a wide range of therapeutic interventions are available, depending upon individual situations and needs. Medications may be prescribed to control muscle spasms, and bracing can be used to help overcome muscle imbalances and prevent muscle contractures. Physical, speech, and occupational therapy along with counseling today are employed to help people with cerebral palsy lead healthy, productive lives.