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Cerebral Palsy

In 1843, William J. Little, an English surgeon, first described medically the condition now known as cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disability resulting from damage to the brain. The causes of cerebral palsy are multiple and variable.

CP causes a type of movement difficulty that is caused by injuries, illnesses, or accidents suffered either before, at, or after birth. Messages from the brain that control movement seem to short circuit. For example, a message from the brain to the legs telling them to move is never completed. The message never reaches the legs; thus the legs do not move.

The disability can range from mild to severe, depending on which area of the brain is damaged and how extensive that damage is. Some individuals with CP can walk well, some use braces, some use crutches, and others use a wheelchair.

Characteristics

Cerebral palsy is nonfatal, noncontagious, noncurable, and non-progressive (does not get worse). It is one of the more prevalent physical disabilities of school-age learners. It is managed through therapy and training. With proper treatment and training, individuals with CP can improve physically, mentally, and socially. The sooner therapy begins, the better.

Approximately 60 percent of all individuals with cerebral palsy have spasticity,that is characterized by tense, contracted muscles. Movement may be jerky, exaggerated, and poorly coordinated. It may be very difficult for them to grasp objects with their fingers.

Additional handicaps such as hearing losses, poor sight, speech impairments, or psychological problems may co-exist with cerebral palsy.

Help for Leaders

Resources

Sarkees-Wircenski, M., & Scott, J. L. (1995). Vocational special needs. Homewood, IL: American Technical Publishers, Inc.

United Cerebral Palsy Organizations
http://www.ucpa.org/

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/index.htm