Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that interferes with a variety of functions and in particular with movement.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy affects the cerebrum of the brain and primarily interferes with movement. It usually appears in infancy or in early childhood, and the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. Symptoms of the disorder include:

  • Difficulty controlling muscles, including stiffness in the muscles, muscle spasms, or uncontrolled movements.
  • Less control over one side of the body than over the other.
  • Delays in reaching age-appropriate motor milestones
  • Trouble with fine motor skills
  • Difficulty with eating, sucking, and speech

Some people with cerebral palsy also experience seizures or have trouble with their senses, including strange visual perceptions or high susceptibility to pain. Cerebral palsy does not affect intelligence, but delays in development can contribute to underestimating the intelligence of a person with the condition.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is caused by a brain injury in early childhood, often during or immediately after birth. Mutations and genetic conditions can also alter brain development in utero, resulting in cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is not contagious.

How is Cerebral Palsy Treated?

There is currently no cure for cerebral palsy. Instead, treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms. People with the condition may benefit from occupational therapy, speech therapy, surgery, or medication to improve muscle functioning and coordination. Children with cerebral palsy usually consult with several specialists, including a neurologist and orthopedist.

Cerebral Palsy and Mental Health

People with cerebral palsy may need help coping with the psychological effects of their condition, which may include bullying, feeling belittled, or frustration over poor motor control. Parents, family members, and other caregivers may also need support coping with providing for their loved one’s ongoing–and typically lifelong–need for care.


  1. Cerebral palsy. (n.d.). KidsHealth. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/brain/cerebral_palsy.html
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010, November 13). Cerebral palsy. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cerebral-palsy/DS00302

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

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