Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects the part of the brain that controls muscle movements. Because of this, cerebral palsy can permanently affect balance, muscle coordination and other body movements. Cerebral palsy typically appears in infancy or childhood and is usually diagnosed before the age of three. It is the most common childhood disability, affecting one in every 500 babies. Although there is no “cure,” it is not a degenerative disease so children can begin learning to manage it immediately after diagnosis.
There are a number of treatment options available to help manage the symptoms of cerebral palsy and can be tailored to suit each individual’s needs, depending on the specific effects and severity of their condition. Treatment options include physical or occupational therapy, speech therapy, medication, corrective surgery, braces or other orthotic devices, wheelchairs or walking aids and communication aids. The earlier treatment begins, the more opportunities a child has to make adjustments and grow accustomed to new ways of accomplishing tasks.
Cerebral palsy can cause difficulty performing voluntary movements. Some symptoms include stiff muscles, a different gait or way of walking and muscle tone that is too stiff or too floppy. Other neurological symptoms can arise as well, such as seizures, pain, hearing loss or impaired vision. Though cerebral palsy impairs motor skills, many people learn to walk and communicate effectively and/or function entirely independently.
Research continues to be conducted in hopes of discovering even more effective treatments and prevention methods. There are several foundations and organizations that provide resources, support and information about cerebral palsy.