What is Cerebral Palsy?


imageCerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder that affects more than 500,000 children and adults in the United States alone. The disorder gets its name from “cerebral” which means “of the brain,” and “palsy” which means “lack of muscle control.” CP primarily affects motor skills—including muscle movement and development—which can cause deficiencies in basic motor functions such as respiration, eating and digestion, and bladder control.

There are three types of CP that can affect the body in different ways:

  • Spastic CP: Causes chronic stiffness and trouble with movement
  • Athetoid CP: Causes involuntary muscle movements
  • Ataxic CP: Causes difficulties in balance and depth perception


CP may be the result of brain damage that occurs after birth or during delivery with signs and symptoms usually appearing by a child’s first birthday. Traumatic brain injuries that occur before a child reaches the age of five can also lead to CP. Those at highest risk for CP are babies born prematurely and children who have sustained early childhood injuries.


Treatment is unique for every child, given the type of CP and severity of the disorder. Some common treatments include physical therapy, pulmonary care with in-home respiration equipment, orthopedic surgery, and prescription medication. Due to the unique set of challenges and varying degrees of CP, it may be helpful to seek additional help and assistance in the form of home nursing.

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