The term “cerebral palsy” (CP) is a blanket term that refers to any occurrence of loss or impairment of motor function. Cerebral palsy affects muscle tone, movement, fine and gross motor skills, reflex, posture and balance. It can also affect vision, hearing and speech problems, as well as learning disabilities.
It “is usually caused by brain damage that occurs before or during a child’s birth, or during the first 3 to 5 years of a child’s life” (Kidshealth.org) and it is one of the most common congenital disorders of childhood. It is estimated that 500,000 American children under the age of 18 have cerebral palsy. (Cerebralpalsy.org)
Let’s look at a few more statistics that show us the effect cerebral palsy is having on our society:
• About two to three children out of every 1,000 have cerebral palsy
• About 10,000 babies born each year will develop cerebral palsy
• Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of CP accounting for 61-76.9 percent of all cerebral palsy cases.
Most people with cerebral palsy can live long, happy, productive lives. Some can do so with minimal assistive technologies and therapies. But cerebral palsy does not progress. The symptoms or condition will not worsen over time.
Types, Symptoms and Causes of Cerebral Palsy
There are three main types of cerebral palsy:
Spastic Cerebral Palsy - muscles continually contract so limbs are stiff and rigid. Reflexes can be exaggerated and movements are jerky.
Arms and legs can be affected as well as the tongue, mouth and pharynx, resulting in impaired speech, eating, breathing and swallowing. Conditions such as hip dislocation, scoliosis and other limb deformities are often associated with cerebral palsy and the stress of the spasticity.
Non-Spastic - characterized by decreased and/or fluctuating muscle tone with each form defined by the specific impairment(s). The most common characteristic is involuntary movement, which can be slow or fast, but can be repetitive and/or rhythmic. These movements can worsen with stress, but tend to diminish when resting.