The words Cerebral Palsy are used to describe a medical condition that affects the control of the muscles. Cerebral means anything in the head and palsy refers to anything wrong with control of the muscles or joints in the body. If someone has cerebral palsy it means that because of an injury to their brain they are not able to use some of the muscles in their body in the normal way. Children who have cerebral palsy, or otherwise referred to as CP, may not be able to walk, talk, eat or play in the same ways as most other kids.

It is important to know that CP is not a disease or illness. It is not contagious and it does not get worse, but it is not something you "grow out of." Children who have CP will have it all their lives. Children with CP have many problems, not all of them related to the brain injury. Most of these complications are nevertheless neurological. They include epilepsy, mental retardation, learning disabilities, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Many people in today's world continue to be blind sighted as to what cerebral palsy really is even though many are continuously faced with it everyday.

Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of disorders effecting body movement and muscle coordination. The definition of CP is "a non-progressive but not unchanging disorder of movement and / or posture, due to an insult or anomaly of the developing brain." Development of the brain starts in early pregnancy and continues until about age three. Damage to the brain during this time may result in CP. This damage interferes with messages from the brain tot he body, and from the body to the brain. We do not know the cause of most cases of cerebral palsy. That is we are unable to determine what caused cerebral palsy in most children who have congenital CP.

We do know that the child who is as highest risk for developing CP is the premature, very small baby who doesn not cry in the first five minutes after delivery, whoi needs to be on a ventilator for over four weeks, and who ha bleeding in his brain. Babies who have congenital malformations in systems such as the heart, kidneys, or spine are also more likely to develop CP, probably because they also have malformations in the brain. Seizures in a newborn also increase the risk of CP. There is no combination of factors, which always results in abnormally functioning individuals. That is, even the small premature infant has a better than ninety percent chance of not having CP. There are surprising numbers of babies who have very stormy courses in the newborn period and go on to do very well.

In contrast, some infants who have rather benign beginnings are eventually found to have severe mental retardation or learning disabilities. Cerebral Palsy may be classified by the type of movement problem or by the body parts involved. Spasticity refers to the inability of a muscle to relax, while athetosis refers to an inability to control the movement of a muscle. Infants who at first are hypotonic wherein they are very floppy may later develop spasticity. Hemiplegia is cerebral palsy that involves one arm and one leg on the same side of the body, where as with diplegia the primary involvement is both legs. Quadriplegia refers to a pattern involving all four extremities as well as trunk and neck muscles.

Another frequently used classification is ataxia, which refers to balance and coordination problems. The motor disability of a child with CP varies greatly from one child to another; thus generalizations about children with cerebral palsy can only have meaning within the context of the subgroups described. With so many different cause of CP, it is no surprise that it takes many forms. Every person with CP is a unique individual, but is likely to be classified as having a particular type of cerebral palsy. Classification can be according to the type of movement disorder and / or by the number of limbs affected.

Some other vocabulary that exists within the disease CP is Athetosis, the slow writhing movements particularly in the hands and face, Ataxia, unsteady walking and balance problems, Chorea, jerky movements of the head, arms, or legs, and Dystonia which is the twisting movements and posture of the trunk and / or limbs. Mixed types of cerebral palsy occur when areas of the brain affecting both muscle tone and voluntary movement are affected, a diagnosis of "Mixed - Type CP" may be given. Usually the spasticity is more obvious at first, with involuntary movement increasing as the child develops. The classifications of movement disorder and number of limbs involved are usually combined. These technical words can be useful in describing the type of extent of CP, but hey are only labels. A label does not describe an individual.

The affects of CP vary from individual to individual. Some cases very from very mild to extremely severe. Some side affects of cerebral palsy consist of muscle tightness or spasm, involuntary movement, difficulty with gross motor skills such as walking or running, with fine motor skills such as writing and speaking, abnormal perception and sensation, seizures, learning disabilities, hearing impairment, and vision problems. The first questions usually asked by parents after they are told their child has cerebral palsy are "What will my child be like?" and "Will he walk?" Predicting what a young child with CP will be like or what he will or will not do is very difficult. Any predictions for an infant under six months of age are little better than guesses, and even for children younger than one year it is often very difficult to predict the pattern of involvement.

By the time the child is two years old, however, the physician can determine whether or not the child has hemiplegia, diplegia or quadriplegia. Based on this involvement patter, some predictions can be made. It is worth saying again that children with cerebral palsy do not stop doing activities once they have begun to do them. Such a loss of skills, called regression, is not characteristic of CP. If regression occurs, it is necessary to look for a different cause of the child's problems.

In order for a child to be able to walk, some major events in motor control have to occur. A child must be able to hold up his head before he can sit up on his own, and he must be able to sit independently before he can walk on his own. It is generally assumed that if a child is not sitting up by himself by age four or walking by age eight, how will never be an independent walker. But a child who starts to walk at age three will certainly continue to walk and will be walking when he is thirteen years old unless he has a disorder other than CP. It is even more difficult to make early predictions of speaking ability or mental ability than it is to predict motor function.

Here, too, evaluation is much more reliable after age two, although a motor disability can make the evaluation of intellectual function quite difficult. Sometimes "motor-free" tests that can assess intellectual ability without the person being tested, needing to use his hands are administered by psychologists who have expertise in their use. Overall, the intellectual ability of the person, far more than their physical disability, will determine the person's prognosis. In other words, mental retardation is far more likely than cerebral palsy to impair a child's ability to function.

Cerebral Palsy is a disease that has affected thousand upon thousand of people. It has been around for many years and will continue to be around probably forever. Just because a person is diagnosed with this makes then absolutely no different than any one of US! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !