Cerebral palsy is a condition caused by damage to the brain, usually occurring before, during or shortly following birth. "Cerebral" refers to the brain and "palsy" to a disorder of movement or posture. It is neither progressive nor communicable. It is also not "curable" in the accepted sense, although education, therapy and applied technology can help persons with cerebral palsy lead productive lives. It is not a disease and should never be referred to as such. It can range from mild to severe.

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. Chief among the causes is an insufficient amount of oxygen or poor flow of blood reaching the fetal or newborn brain. This can be caused by premature separation of the placenta, an awkward birth position, labor that goes on too long or is too abrupt, or interference with the umbilical cord. Other causes may be associated with premature birth, RH or A-B-O blood type incompatibility between parents, infection of the mother with German measles or other viral diseases in early pregnancy, and microorganisms that attack the newborn's central nervous system. Lack of good prenatal care may also be a factor. A less common type is acquired cerebral palsy: head injury is the most frequent cause, usually the result of motor vehicle accidents, falls, or child abuse.

There are three main types of cerebral palsy: spastic -- stiff and difficult movement; athetoid -- involuntary and uncontrolled movement; and ataxic -- disturbed sense of balance and depth perception. There may be a combination of these types for any one individual. Other types do occur, although infrequently.

Cerebral palsy is characterized by an inability to fully control motor function. Depending on which part of the brain has been damaged and the degree of involvement of the central nervous system, one or more of the following may occur: spasms; tonal problems; involuntary movement; disturbance in gait and mobility; seizures; abnormal sensation and perception; impairment of sight, hearing or speech; and mental retardation.

This information is courtesy of National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

Cerebral Palsy - a video for families
The Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia has produced a two-part video called "Cerebral Palsy - A video for families". This video will be especially interesting to parents of younger children who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy; the first part provides an overview of cerebral palsy and the second part describes the roles of the various specialists who may be part of the child's medical team. Check it out on the home page of the CP Association of British Columbia or at this YouTube link.

Disability etiquette
The United Spinal Association has published a booklet entitled Disability Etiquette, which contains useful information on how to interact with people across a diverse number of specific disabilities, including cerebral palsy. Visit www.unitedspinal.org or check out a copy here.


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