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What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy  is an umbrella-like term used to describe a group of chronic disorders impairing control of movement that appear in the first few years of life and generally do not worsen over time. The disorders are caused by faulty development of or damage to motor areas in the brain that disrupts the brain’s ability to control movement and posture. A more useful cerebral palsy definition describes a particular type of disability describing a unique set of symptoms.


Symptoms of cerebral palsy include difficulty with fine motor tasks (such as writing or using scissors), difficulty maintaining balance or walking, tonal problems, abnormal sensation and perception, impairment of sight, hearing or speech, and involuntary movements.


The symptoms differ from person to person and may change over time. Some people with cerebral palsy are also affected by other medical disorders, including seizures or mental impairment, but cerebral palsy does not always cause profound handicap.



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There are three main types of cerebral palsy:

  • Spastic:   Stiff and difficult movement.
  • Athetoid:  Involuntary and uncontrolled movement.
  • 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 may be congenital, caused by injury during labor and delivery or acquired after birth. Both ataxic and athetoid cerebral palsy may occur as a result of a basal ganglia damage – basal ganglia infarct, basal ganglia stroke, basal ganglia hemorrage, basal ganglia lacunar infarct, or any other kind of basal ganglia disease, basal ganglia disorder, basal ganglia degeneration or basal ganglia damage.


Early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before 3 years of age. Infants with cerebral palsy are frequently slow to reach developmental milestones such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl, smile, or walk.


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