What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP)refers to a group of neurological disorders permanently affects the part of the brain that controls muscle movements thereby impacting body movement, muscle coordination, and balance. These ailments appear in infancy or early childhood. Although detecting may take months of years, the majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it; early signs appearing before a child reaches the age of 3. In more than 80% of cases, symptoms are apparent within the first month of life. In instances where the infant’s brain is injured by low oxygen levels, there may be signs of this brain injury present at the time of delivery. CP is not progressive or hereditary.

The most common early physical indicators of CP include:

  • a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia)
  • stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity)
  • walking with one foot or leg dragging
  • walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait
  • muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy.

Common neurological symptoms include:

  • seizures
  • hearing loss
  • impaired vision
  • bladder and bowel control issues
  • pain and abnormal sensations


Although cerebral palsy can’t be cured, treatment can serve to improve a child’s capabilities. In general, ary diagnosis and treatment will result in a better chance of children being able to overcome developmental challenges and learn new ways to accomplish challenging tasks. Typical treatment regimens include:

  • occupational and physical therapy
  • speech therapy
  • drugs to counteract seizures,  relax spasms, and alleviate pain
  • surgery for the correction of anatomical abnormalities
  • the use of durable medical equipment such as orthotic devices, wheelchairs, walkers, and communication aids.


Each case of CP is unique and must be treated as such. CP does not always cause profound disabilities and is not known to negatively impact life expectancy. Quality of life can be enhanced using treatments to address individual reactions to the disease and, depending upon the severity of the case, those remedies may require life-long use. Those with severe cerebral palsy may require special medical, educational, and social services. Cerebral palsy can strain financial resources. Resources from the Centers for Disease control estimate average lifetime cost of cerebral palsy-related expenses for one person at $921,000.