My cerebral palsy (CP) made me the person I am today. It has shown me that there is strength that can be found within our weaknesses. So, what is CP?
CP is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. It is the most common motor disability in childhood. CDC estimates that an average of 1 in 323 children in the U.S. have CP.
I was aware at a very young age that I was different than other individuals. I didn’t however, truly understand what CP actually was until Junior High School. My younger self was conscious of the fact that my stiff muscles made it challenging for me to walk with a level or balanced walk, much like all my friends.
Yet, around the age of 12, I decided that even though I’d never be a professional athlete, I would work on my understanding of myself .
In 8th grade, I learned that CP does not look the same on every diagnosed person. “Cerebral Palsy” is a broad term used to describe various conditions.
For example, those with quadriplegia are affected in both arms and legs; those with hemiplegia have only one side of the body affected; and those with diplegia are affected in both legs.
Further, there are different types, like, spastic CP which describes tight muscles, dyskinetic CP which denotes spasms, and ataxic CP which describes shakiness.
Below you’ll find a great infograph explaining the complexities of CP
Things to Know
Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.
Signs and symptoms appear during infancy or preschool years. In general, cerebral palsy causes impaired movement associated with abnormal reflexes, floppiness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk, abnormal posture, involuntary movements, unsteady walking, or some combination of these.
People with cerebral palsy may have problems swallowing and commonly have eye muscle imbalance, in which the eyes don’t focus on the same object. They may also suffer reduced range of motion at various joints of their bodies due to muscle stiffness.
Cerebral palsy’s effect on functional abilities varies greatly. Some affected people can walk while others can’t. Some people show normal or near-normal intellectual capacity, but others may have intellectual disabilities. Epilepsy, blindness or deafness also may be present.
Signs and symptoms can vary greatly. Movement and coordination problems associated with cerebral palsy may include:
- Variations in muscle tone, such as being either too stiff or too floppy
- Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity)
- Stiff muscles with normal reflexes (rigidity)
- Lack of muscle coordination (ataxia)
- Tremors or involuntary movements
- Slow, writhing movements (athetosis)
- Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as pushing up on arms, sitting up alone or crawling
- Favoring one side of the body, such as reaching with only one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
- Difficulty walking, such as walking on toes, a crouched gait, a scissors-like gait with knees crossing, a wide gait or an asymmetrical gait
- Excessive drooling or problems with swallowing
- Difficulty with sucking or eating
- Delays in speech development or difficulty speaking
- Difficulty with precise motions, such as picking up a crayon or spoon
The disability associated with cerebral palsy may be limited primarily to one limb or one side of the body, or it may affect the whole body. The brain disorder causing cerebral palsy doesn’t change with time, so the symptoms usually don’t worsen with age. However, muscle shortening and muscle rigidity may worsen if not treated aggressively.
Prevalence and Characteristics
- Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in childhood. 1
- About 1 in 323 children has been identified with CP according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network
Cerebral palsy is caused by an abnormality or disruption in brain development, usually before a child is born. In many cases, the exact trigger isn’t known. Factors that may lead to problems with brain development include:
- Mutations in genes that lead to abnormal brain development
- Maternal infections that affect the developing fetus
- Fetal stroke, a disruption of blood supply to the developing brain
- Infant infections that cause inflammation in or around the brain
- Traumatic head injury to an infant from a motor vehicle accident or fall
- Lack of oxygen to the brain (asphyxia) related to difficult labor or delivery, although birth-related asphyxia is much less commonly a cause than historically thought
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Services
- Part C of IDEA deals with early intervention services (birth through 36 months of age), while
- Part B applies to services for school-aged children (3 through 21 years of age). Even if your child has not been diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP), he or she may be eligible for IDEA services.