Cerebral palsy (CP) is a loose term for a group of disorders
affecting body movement, balance, and posture. Cerebral palsy is
caused by abnormal development or damage in one or more parts
of the brain that control muscle tone and motor activity
(movement). The resulting
disabilities first appear early
in life, usually in infancy or
early childhood. Infants with
cerebral palsy are usually slow
to learn movements such as
rolling over, sitting, crawling,
The Three Types of
The three main types of cerebral palsy correspond to the different parts of the brain that are affected.
1. People with Spastic CP find that some muscles become very stiff and weak, especially under effort, which can
affect their control of movement. This is the most common type of CP.
2. People with Athetoid CP has some loss of control of their posture, and tends to make involuntary movements.
3. People with Ataxic CP usually have problems with balance. They may also have shaky hand movements and
Often people will have a mixture of the different types of CP.
Spastic CP Athetoid CP Ataxic CP
The Reason For
Cerebral Palsy is most commonly the
result of a failure of part of the brain to
develop, either before birth or in early
childhood. Occasionally it is due to an
inherited disorder. It is sometimes
possible to identify the cause of CP, but
The causes of cerebral palsy include
illness during pregnancy, premature
delivery, or lack of oxygen supply to
the baby; or it may occur early in life
as a result of an accident, lead
poisoning, viral infection, child abuse,
or other factors.
There are approximately 764,000
children and adults in the United
States that exhibit one or more of the
symptoms on Cerebral Palsy. Each
year about 8,000 babies and infants
are diagnosed with the condition. In
addition, another 1,200 - 1,500
preschool age children are recognized
each year to have cerebral palsy.
Identiﬁed Causes of Cerebral Palsy in
the Newborn (Chart/Graph)
Low Birth Rate
Congenital Brain Abnormality
Intrauterine Ischemic Event (Traumatic event while pregnant)
Genetic and/or Chromosomal Abnormality
Symptoms of cerebral palsy can be as simple as
having difficulty with fine motor tasks like writing
or using scissors, or as profound as being unable
to maintain balance or walk. Severely afflicted
patients may have involuntary movements, such as
uncontrollable hand motions and drooling. Others
suffer from associated medical disorders, such as
seizures and mental retardation.
Problems associated with muscles include muscle
stiffness, poor muscle tone, uncontrolled
movements, posture, balance, coordination,
walking, speech, swallowing, and many other
Other problems with the body and brain include Important
breathing problems, learning disabilities, bladder
and bowel control problems, skeletal deformities, Picture
eating difficulties, dental problems, digestive
problems, and hearing and vision problems.
Scientists are working to find a cure for this disease. Additionally, many other public, government, and private
institutions are researching possible cures and prevention, including:
• The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
• National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
• United Cerebral Palsy Research and Education Foundation (UCP)
• March of Dimes
• Easter Seals
Studies are also being done to determine ways to better a child’s quality of life. there are 28 government studies
on cerebral palsy, either ongoing or about to start.
These studies include research on the use of botox to relieve drooling, hyperbaric treatment to increase oxygen
and saturate body tissues for improved healing, acupuncture, and more.
How Was Cerebral
The first documented history of cerebral
palsy dates back to the 1860’s. It was when
an English surgeon named William Little
came across a puzzling condition that
affected young children. He wrote the first
medical descriptions detailing “a disorder
that caused stiff, spastic muscles in their
legs, as well as slightly in their arms. It was
more difficult for these children to
accomplish tasks that other children found
rather easy, such as grasping objects,
crawling, and walking. Oddly enough, there
conditions did not change, for better or
worse, as they got older.” What was
originally named Little’s disease is now
known as cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy doesn’t always
cause profound disabilities. While
one child with severe cerebral
palsy might be unable to walk and
need extensive, lifelong care,
another with mild cerebral palsy
might be only slightly awkward
and require no special assistance.
medications, and surgery can help
many individuals improve their
motor skills and ability to
communicate with the world.