What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is a neurological disorder group of disorders that affect the movement, posture and balance of the body. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 1 in every 323 people are diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, which translates into over a million people in the United States.

Causes and Diagnosis

Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage or an abnormality of the brain, usually before the child is born. This can be caused by several things, such as a traumatic head injury, infection either during pregnancy or infancy, loss of oxygen, or fetal stroke. Though it is not uncommon for the exact cause to go undetermined.


Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy range from mild to very severe. If a child is severe, some symptoms may show up shortly after birth, but in most cases symptoms don’t begin to be noticed until one to three years old, when the major body movements typically begin to develop. Common symptoms of Cerebral Palsy are:

  • Problems with swallowing or excessive drooling.
  • Difficulty sucking and eating.
  • Favoring one side of the body, such as only using one hand, or dragging one leg when crawling or walking.
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as picking up objects.
  • Delays in reaching gross motor milestones, like rolling over, crawling and walking.
  • Abnormal muscle tone, either unusually stiff or floppy muscles and movement.
  • Lack of muscle movement and coordination.

Other neurological problems may be present due to brain abnormalities associated with Cerebral Palsy. Children with Cerebral Palsy may also have:

Resources and Treatment

There is no cure for Cerebral Palsy, but therapy and other forms of treatment can help make symptoms manageable and lead to an enhanced quality of life. Some of the types of therapy that may be useful in managing the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy are physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral health therapy. If you are worried about your child’s development and are concerned that he may have Cerebral Palsy, contact your pediatrician to set up an evaluation for your child.

Sources: CDC.gov | MayoClinic.org | CerebralPalsy.org

What is Cerebral Palsy?
Shandy Marso, Contributor

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