What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is not an illness or a disease; it is a physical impairment!  You cannot be affected in  any way by contact with a person who has CP!!  Does that sound far-fetched?  Many people shy away  from people with CP because they feel uncomfortable and donít know how to relate to the person who has the disability.  Some see a person in a wheelchair who has trouble speaking and they think that person has mental impairment(speech impairment has nothing to do with a persons intellectual ability). So,

What is it?  

There are 3 types of CP.  These are:  

Spastic CP - affects control of movement.  Some people find their muscles become stiff and weak,  especially under stress.  This affects a persons ability to walk or otherwise get around.   

Athetoid CP - people with this type have unwanted movements and loss of control of their  posture.   

Ataxic CP - creates balance problems in most cases.  It can also affect speech, and a person may have  shaky hands or legs.   

What causes it?  

The problem of CP normally occurs before birth or in early childhood.  It is often a result of part of the  brain not developing fully.  This may be because of problems in the womb or complications with the birth.   The brain is starved of some of the oxygen it requires and doesnít develop fully.  Premature or low-weight  babies are also at risk to CP.  If a child has meningitis or encephalitis in infancy they may also suffer with  CP.  In a few cases a genetic problems may be to blame.

Identifying the cause of CP is not always possible.  

How many people does it affect?  

Around 1 in 400 will have some form of Cerebral Palsy.  That may not sound a lot, but with close on 60  million people in Britain alone, it means 150,000 have CP!  

What are the effects?  

This largely depends on which type of CP is present.  It is possible to have more than one type of CP (I  should know!)  the following can all be effects of the disability:  

Difficulty in movement

Problems with walking, eating, or talking

Being unable to sit up unaided

Sight, Hearing, Perception, and Learning difficulties

Difficulty controlling movement and facial expressions

Epilepsy (between a ľ and a third of children and adolescents, and roughly 10% of adults are affected by  epilepsy). 

A lot of people with CP have above average intelligence, others have some or severe learning difficulties. Most are of average intelligence.   

There is no cure for CP, but the problems it creates can be helped by physiotherapy and other treatments if started early enough.   

The Problems of Ageing!  

Cerebral Palsy does not necessarily shorten life expectancy, but as one gets older there are a number of  things that change.  These include:  

Increased levels of pain and discomfort

Stiff joints

An increase in spasms and contracting muscles.

Loss of motor control

Back, Neck, and Joint pain

Problems with mobility

Bladder, Bowel, and Digestion problems

Speech quality deterioration.
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