The brain controls all that we do. Different parts of the brain control the movement of every muscle of the body. In cerebral palsy, there is damage to, or lack of development in, one of these areas of the brain.
"Cerebral" - refers to the brain.
"Palsy"- can mean weakness or paralysis or lack of muscle control.

Therefore cerebral palsy is a disorder of muscle control which results from some damage to part of the brain. The term cerebral palsy is used when the problem has occurred to the developing brain either before birth, around birth or early in life

Children can have problems such as weakness, stiffness, awkwardness, slowness, shakiness and difficulty with balance. These problems can range from mild to severe. In mild cerebral palsy, the child may be slightly clumsy in one arm or leg, and the problem may be barely noticeable. In severe cerebral palsy, the child may have a lot of difficulties, with the whole body affected.


There are several different types of cerebral palsy.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

This is the most common type of cerebral palsy. Spasticity means stiffness or tightness of muscles. The muscles are stiff because the message to the muscles is relayed incorrectly through the damaged part of the brain.

When people without cerebral palsy perform a movement, some groups of muscles become tighter and some groups of muscles relax. In children with spastic cerebral palsy, both groups of muscles may become tighter. This makes the movement difficult.

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

Athetosis is the word used for the uncontrolled movements that occur in this type of cerebral palsy. This lack of control is often most noticeable when the child starts to make a movement. In additions, children with athetoid cerebral palsy often have very weak muscles or feel floppy when carried.

Ataxic cerebral Palsy

This is the least common type of cerebral palsy. Ataxia is the word used for unsteady shaky movements or tremor. Children with ataxia also have problems with balance.

Mixed Types

Many children do not have just one type, but a mixture of several of these movement patterns.


Cerebral Palsy is NOT contagious. Remember, it is not a sickness or disease.
Cerebral Palsy is NOT progressive.
That is, the damage to the brain is not progressive,
but the effect on the body can result in progressive deformities
and disabilities such as curvature of the spine or dislocation of the hips.
Because cerebral palsy is not a sickness or a disease,
and NOT progressive,
it is NOT usually the primary cause of death.

People with cerebral palsy often have other disabilities not related to the cerebral palsy. Disabilities such as heart defects, asthma, and kidney damage are NOT related to cerebral palsy. Many people with one disability [not just those with cerebral palsy] have additional disabilities.


There are many different causes.

Damage to the brain can occur:

-in the early months of pregnancy, for example if the mother is exposed to certain infections such as Rubella [German measles];

-during labour or at birth, for example when there is lack of oxygen supplied to the baby;

-in the period shortly after birth, for example where an infant develops a severe infection in the first few days or weeks of life.

It is important to note that, despite a careful review and various tests, the cause of the cerebral palsy often remains unknown.

Almost all families continue to worry about the cause, and why it happened. This is understandable, and a natural response. Parents often blame themselves for something they may, or may not have done, during the pregnancy or birth. However, usually the event for which the family blame themselves is either not the cause, or could not possibly have been prevented. It is helpful if families can discuss the problem and share their concerns with each other, and with the people involved in the care of their child.


The aim of treatment is to encourage children and adults to learn to be as independent as possible. Some children and adults who have mild cerebral palsy will have no problems in achieving independence. For others it will be a slow process. In some with severe difficulties, considerable assistance from others will always be needed.

Children and adults with cerebral palsy have the same goals as people everywhere, to participate in as many of life's opportunities as possible. Cerebral palsy is not curable. Therefore The Cerebral Palsy Association is concerned with the QUALITY OF LIFE which is achievable by people with cerebral palsy. That is, a life shaped by their abilities and NOT their disabilities.


Further information on any of the above subjects can be obtained from the Resource and Information Service of The Cerebral Palsy Association which has a number of publications and a data base on topics related to cerebral palsy.

Interested persons are also welcome to make enquiries from:

Manager of Children's Services

For more information please mail us on.....

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