Cerebral Palsy

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood. Cerebral palsy is a physical impairment that affects the development of movement. It is caused by damage to the developing brain before, during or after birth. Cerebral palsy is not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. Instead, damage to the motor control areas of the brain disrupts the brain’s ability to control movement and posture. No two people with cerebral palsy are affected in the same way. The movement problems can vary from barely noticeable to extremely severe. Many have other disabilities as well, such as a learning disability.

Cerebral palsy is usually detected in the first 12 to 18 months of life (except in the mildest forms). The child may fail to reach their motor milestones such as rolling over, sitting and walking at the expected time. Their movements may be asymmetric and the muscles may appear very stiff and tight or very floppy. Cerebral palsy is characterised by an inability to fully control movement, particularly muscle control and coordination. Depending on the area of the brain which is affected, one or more of the following may occur: muscle tightness or spasticity; involuntary movements; problems with walking and mobility; difficulty in swallowing and problems with speech. Depending upon which areas of the brain are affected different types of cerebral palsy are seen: spastic, athetoid, and ataxic.

Spastic cerebral palsy affects 70 – 80% of people with cerebral palsy. It is characterised by stiff and tight muscles and abnormal patterns of movement. It is often described according to the limbs that are affected: hemiplegia (arm and leg on same side of body); diplegia (primarily legs); quadriplegia (all four limbs).

Athetoid cerebral palsy affects about 10 – 20% of people with cerebral palsy. It is characterised by uncontrolled, slow, writhing movements. These movements usually affect the hands, feet, arms or legs.

Ataxic cerebral palsy affects about 5 – 10% of people with cerebral palsy. It affects the sense of balance. It is characterised by an unsteady, wide-based gait, poor coordination, shaky hand movements and irregular speech.

Sensory Processing and Cerebral Palsy

As well as movement problems, many children with cerebral palsy also have difficulty processing sensory information. For some children these sensory processing problems can be as restrictive as the movement disorder.

Assessment of your child

Once commissioned we will select those assessments that we feel are most appropriate for your child, following discussion with you at the initial consultation. We will carry out a comprehensive assessment in order to identify the extent and nature of your child’s sensory difficulties. We will use a combination of standardised and observational assessments to identify your child’s functional level and specific areas of difficulty. Following the assessment we will arrange a feedback appointment to discuss the results, offer you advice and recommend therapy options that may be appropriate.

Please contact us if you would like any further details.

Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy cannot be cured. However, intervention from an early age can help to promote function, prevent secondary problems and increase the child’s developmental capabilities. Your child will probably have an NHS physiotherapist but you may feel that you would like a sensory assessment of your child’s difficulties.

Useful links for information on Cerebral Palsy

Visit our links and resources page for further information on Cerebral Palsy.

links2Common conditions treated: