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What is Cerebral Palsy?

What is Cerebral Palsy?

The 5th of October was World Cerebral Palsy Day, and it is a great opportunity to spread some awareness and reveal some of the resources available to parents with children who have the condition.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition developed during pregnancy or birth. It is a result of brain damage and affects coordination, with muscle contraction inhibiting mobility. Each case is unique, and the motor impairment and mobility can vary significantly from one individual to another.

  • Cerebral Palsy is currently incurable
  • Major symptoms include muscle contractions/spasms, making walking, sitting and talking difficult
  • Severity varies, with some sufferers being paralysed whilst others require little assistance
  • 1 in 400 children are born with cerebral palsy, that is 1800 children a year in the UK. Currently there are 30,000 people with the condition
  • Just under half of children with cerebral palsy are born premature

 World Cerebral Palsy Day | SpecialKids.Company

What causes cerebral palsy?

Brain damage is the cause behind the motor impairment of children born with cerebral palsy. The brain damage can have different causes including asphyxiation during birth which restricts oxygen flow to the brain. Other causes during/post birth include infection such as meningitis. However, causes during/after pregnancy account for only 10% of cases, with most causes starting during pregnancy itself.

Most cases are caused by the following:

  • periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) (damage of the brain's white matter)
  • abnormal development of the brain
  • intracranial hemorrhage or stroke

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What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?

The symptoms vary from individual to individual and the severity is different in each case. Some sufferers are completely paralysed whilst others enjoy near full mobility and require only minimal assistance.

Main symptoms include lack of motor control (muscle spasms), lack of coordination, and problems with balance and posture. Other common symptoms include difficulty in swallowing and speech impairment.

Other non-physical symptoms include sensory impairment, developmental difficulties and seizures. It is often these symptoms that first result in diagnosis in children as they reveal delays in normal development. Health professionals will look for developmental delays in sitting walking, crawling etc., as well as abnormal muscle tone, abnormal posture and involuntary movement of limbs.

What treatments are available?


Physiotherapy can mitigate the physical effects and strengthen muscles to help walking, sitting and other muscle movement. The core purpose is to stop muscles from contracting and shortening, which is what restricts normal movement, as well as training muscles not used by your child. Help with posture is also available, as well as advice on exercise and the required equipment to expand mobility.

Speech therapy:

This involves a variety of methods depending on the severity. Speech training can improve vocal delivery, whilst other children may be provided with computer equipment to help them communicate.

Occupational therapy:

This involves practical advice to best manage everyday tasks like climbing stairs, using the toilet, getting dressed etc. You can learn more here.


There are a wide range of medications available to people with cerebral palsy, all designed to relax muscles and reduce pain. Medications include diazepam, Baclofen, Botulinum, trihexyphenidyl, gabapentin and clonidine.

Getting help

The NHS has a wide range of services to diagnose and treat cerebral palsy, with treatment coming from a range of specialist health professionals. If your child appears to being experiencing developmental delays, your GP will refer you to a specialist for diagnosis.

There are a number of charities that offer resources, activities and funding for children with the condition (see below).



NHS Treatments

World Cerebral Palsy Day

Signs and Symptoms

The Promise Cerebral Palsy Charity

Scope Charity

PACE Charity

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