What are the Characteristics of Cerebral Palsy?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill
Children with cerebral palsy may have difficulty walking.
Children with cerebral palsy may have difficulty walking.

The major characteristics of cerebral palsy include lack of muscle control, spastic movements, delayed or lack of speech control, and poor posture. This is due to damage in the brain which occurs at some point during neurological development, generally in utero. Those with the condition often walk with a limp or cannot walk at all, have malformed hands or slurred speech, or may display jerky movements when trying to complete everyday activities.

The damage that causes cerebral palsy usually occurs before birth.
The damage that causes cerebral palsy usually occurs before birth.

Characteristics of cerebral palsy do not improve over time in most cases. Sufferers can often learn to do the same things as any other child, such as walk and talk, but they may do them in a slightly different manner than most. The abilities of each individual can vary widely, as there are drastic differences in those with mild forms of the condition and those with severe forms.

Children with cerebral palsy are often affected by physical limitations as well as cognitive issues.
Children with cerebral palsy are often affected by physical limitations as well as cognitive issues.

Some individuals with cerebral palsy may be wheelchair bound, have trouble speaking and communicating, and may even be slower to learn things than average. Others will only have a slight limp while walking or less muscle control. Sometimes mildly jerky movements can be improved with daily exercises of the affected area. Exercise is important for anyone who displays characteristics of cerebral palsy, as muscles can eventually atrophy if not used for long periods of time.

The level at which characteristics of cerebral palsy affect a person’s ability to live a normal life will depend on the severity of the condition. Many patients become highly productive members of society with few limitations, while others may need to be cared for the duration of their lives. Muscle strength can be improved to some degree, but those with extremely severe forms of the condition may show little improvement beyond a certain point.

In many cases, characteristics of cerebral palsy may be evident from a very young age. This is ideal because children who receive treatment and are encouraged to exercise early generally do better long term than those who don’t. There may be no way of knowing the severity of the condition until the child grows and matures. Parents are generally encouraged to help their children exercise and play as normally as possible during this time to encourage as much muscle strength as possible.

Additional medical care may be needed for those with very severe forms of cerebral palsy. These individuals may have decreased cognitive function, no control over muscles like the bowel or bladder, and may have additional health problems. Early intervention and treatment is the best course of action.

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