March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month.  Cerebral Palsy, or CP, is a neurological disorder that effects movement, posture and balance. It is a disorder that effects motor skills. 

Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain. This damage typically results from a loss of oxygen. Cerebral palsy is divided into four categories: spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, and mixed.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy is the most common type of CP disorder. Those who have been diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy may be placed in either of the following three categories:

  • Hemiplegia 
  • Diplegia
  • Quadriplegia

Those who have received a diagnosis of hemiplegia cerebral palsy suffer from spastic movement on one side of their body.  Babies and children with this diagnosis may have delays in meeting milestones, but typically there are no cognitive or intellectual delays.

With a spastic diplegia diagnosis, children usually have stiffness in mostly their legs with their arms and hands less effected.  Spastic diplegic children usually do not have intellectual disabilities, either.

The most severe form of cerebral palsy is spastic quadriplegia. This is usually marked by stiffness or floppiness in all limbs in some capacity. Children with this diagnosis typically have cognitive and intellectual disabilities.  

Why Is Awareness So Important?

Awareness lessens the stigma associated with special needs. As stated earlier, in addition to the impact on motor functioning, some children have intellectual and cognitive delays as symptoms of their condition. Other children suffer from physical motor difficulties with little to no disruption in intellectual abilities. 

Awareness brings attention to the varying categories of cerebral palsy. Awareness also acknowledges that each child is different, and a blanket approach should not be used when discussing each child.

Awareness can also open more doors to parents and friends. Early intervention through diagnosis and treatment can help to improve some of the cognitive and motor functioning of the brain. 

Additional Information Relating To Cerebral Palsy

In addition to the intellectual delays and disabilities and problems with movement and limb control, children with Cerebral Palsy can have other difficulties that may affect their growth and development.

For example, many children who have received a Cerebral Palsy diagnosis have suffered from or suffers from active seizures.  Additionally, these children may face stunted or delayed physical growth. 

Many children with Cerebral Palsy also experience strabismus. Strabismus is an eye disorder commonly referred to as “cross eyes.” Very young children may wear glasses to correct strabismus or other vision difficulties associated with their diagnosis. 

Another condition associated with Cerebral Palsy is malnourishment. This is not due to parents not trying or being unwilling. Many children with Cerebral Palsy lack the ability to swallow, suckle or chew consistently. This makes eating everyday meals extremely difficult. As a result, many children are underweight and require the need for tube feeding. 

People who are not closely familiar with children with Cerebral Palsy may not realize that many have issues with incontinence all their lives. This condition is also due to disruption in the part of the brain that handles muscle control. 

The Need For Awareness

Awareness allows for a small glimpse into life with a loved one with Cerebral Palsy. It allows some of the answers so that you can have a general understanding of some of the causes and effects of this disability. Awareness also helps to remove the stigma and ignorance associated with Cerebral Palsy. 

More information about this and other disorders may be found at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute of Health.