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Cerebral Palsy Information

  • Cerebral palsy or CP is the most common childhood physical disability. It is a permanent physical condition that affects movement. A new international consensus definition has been proposed: "Cerebral palsy (CP) describes a group of disorders of the development of movement and posture, causing activity limitation that are attributed to non-progressive disturbances that occurred in the developing fetal or infant brain. The motor disorders of cerebral palsy are often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, cognition, communication, perception, and/or behavior, and/or by a seizure disorder (Rosenbaum et al, 2005)"...
  • The incidence in developed countries is approximately 2-2.5 per 1000 live births. Incidence has not declined over the last 60 years despite medical advances like electro-fetal monitoring. Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disorder, however secondary orthopaedic deformities are common for example, hip dislocation and scoliosis of the spine. There is no known cure; medical intervention, Conductive Education has been shown to be helpful. These treatments nowadays focus on developing the person's participation in everyday life, and not 'fixing' their impairments. While severity varies widely, cerebral palsy ranks among the most costly congenital conditions to manage.

    Cerebral palsy is an "umbrella term" in that it refers to a group of different conditions. It has been suggested that no two people with CP are alike even if they have the same diagnosis. Cerebral palsy is divided into three major classifications to describe the different movement impairments. These classifications reflect the area of brain damaged. The four classifications are: (1) Spastic; (2) Athetoid; (3) Ataxic and (4) Mixed. Spastic cerebral palsy is further classified by topography, dependent on the region of the body affected. These typography classifications include: (1) hemiplegia (one side being more affected than the other); (2) diplegia (the lower body being more affected than the upper body); and (3) quadriplegia (All four limbs affected equally).

    Prevalence is best calculated around the school entry age of about six years. In the industrialized world, the incidence is about 2 per 1000 live births. In the United States, the rate is thought to vary from between 1.5 to 4 per 1000 live births. This amounts to approximately 5,000-10,000 babies born with cerebral palsy each year in the United States. Each year, around 1,500 preschoolers are diagnosed with the disorder in the USA. There is mental retardation in 60% of the cases, due to brain damage outside the parietal, occipital, temporal or Basal Ganglia. Mental retardation can occur if the child is not given the opportunities to learn; it does not solely occur from brain damage, but from an individual(s)'s ability to 1) communicate with the child and 2) be able to have the child effectively communicate through speech or other means. For example, a child that had CP who suffers from blindness/deafness due to damage that occurred in the occipital and temporal lobes during birth could use tactile sign-language or tulonoma to communicate. Tulonoma is a type of technique where the user puts his/her hands on the speakers mouth and is able to interpret what they say solely based on the lip movement patterns associated with particular word(s). Other disorders paired with CP include disorders of hearing, eyesight, epilepsy, perception of obstacles (such as judging how far away things are when driving a car), speech difficulties, and eating and drinking difficulties. These esimates include individuals who did not have access to an equal opportunity education prior to the American with Disabilities Act of 1990.

    There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but various forms of therapy can help a person with the disorder to function more effectively. For instance, the use of a standing frame can help reduce spasticity and improve range of motion for people with CP who use wheelchairs. Nevertheless, there is only some benefit from therapy. The treatment is usually symptomatic and focuses on helping the person to develop as many motor skills as possible or to learn how to compensate for the lack of them. The disorder does not affect the expected length of life so treatment focuses on quality of life issues. Non-speaking people with cerebral palsy are often successful availing of Augmentative and Alternative Communication systems such as Blissymbols.

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