Cerebral palsy is a lifelong disorder, affecting movement and posture.
Cerebral palsy describes a group of conditions affecting a developing infant or child’s brain. It is the most common physical disability in childhood.
The condition results from damage to the brain that occurs during pregnancy, at birth, or within the first two years after birth.
Depending on the extent and location of the brain damage, movement and posture is often affected, though these features are often accompanied by other difficulties.
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About Cerebral Palsy
The main signs for cerebral palsy are delayed development and difficulties with movement and coordination.
There can be indications at birth that may suggest your child has cerebral palsy, however generally signs become more apparent as your baby develops. Difficulties with movement and coordination are also often noticed by family.
Other signs that your child might have cerebral palsy include:
- Low muscle tone; your baby may feel “floppy” when picked up;
- High muscle tone; your baby may feel stiff when being picked up or moved;
- A baby may show jerky or uncoordinated movements;
- A baby may be unable to hold up their head while lying on their tummy or in a supported sitting position;
- A baby may find feeding and swallowing difficult;
- Not rolling by 6 months;
- Delayed development such as not sitting and balancing on their own by 12 months, not walking by 18 months, or not speaking simple sentences by 24 months.
These signs do not necessarily mean your child has cerebral palsy. But if you have concerns, please speak to a doctor and read more about how you can access our services.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy; the damage to the brain is permanent. However, the brain can adapt, and therapy can influence how the brain develops, to make the best possible use of the nervous system remaining. Everyone’s brain has some possibility for adaptation and learning but we know that younger brains are the most adaptable.
The damage to the brain is not progressive, but your child’s difficulties may change as they grow and mature. Limited movement can result in the shortening of muscles and deformities of joints and bones. Growth can also impact movement. This means for some children certain activities such as walking or using their hands, may become more difficult.
As cerebral palsy involves damage to the brain, it can affect many areas of function. For some children, problems may occur either as part of cerebral palsy or secondary to the condition.
This will depend on the extent and location of damage in the brain. For example, immobility can lead to muscle degeneration. Muscle stiffness can also impact on a child’s breathing and respiratory system. Some children have epilepsy and others difficulty with sleep, eating and drinking or communication and others with their sensory system.
Pain is the issue that most affects the quality of life in children who have cerebral palsy. However, please remember that these difficulties do not affect every child.