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Life with
Cerebal Palsy

Anna M.
Anna will guide you through the section about cerebral palsy:
“ It was so hard to understand what this is, because this disease is really unknown…”

There is no denying that the life of a child with cerebral palsy (CP), as well as that of his/her caregiver, is full of tough and challenging moments. However, with the proper help and support, your child can win many battles and grow stronger by the day, which will give you confidence and peace of mind in caring for your child.

Children with cerebral palsy can grow to become happy and healthy independent adults.


What exactly is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is not a disease. It is a neurological disorder that starts during infancy or childhood and that affects motor function, in other words, muscle control, coordination and movement.1

It is one of the most common disorders that originates at or before birth1, with a worldwide incidence of 2 to 2.5 per 1000 live births.

Although cerebral palsy (CP) is a lifelong disability, with the proper treatment and management, a child with CP can live a happy, healthy life.


  1. Reddihough DS and Collins KJ. The epidemiology and causes of cerebral palsy. Aust J Physiother. 2003;49(1):7-12.

What causes cerebral palsy?

As confusing as it may sound, the truth is that the exact causes of cerebral palsy (CP) are not always known.1

Multiple causes and certain risk factors have been shown to have a link with cerebral palsy.

  • Malformations during development
  • Maternal infections during pregnancy
  • Certain genetic factors
  • Problems during labour and delivery
  • Post-natal infections or injuries

These causes may all affect normal brain development, resulting in various types and degrees of CP.1

Whatever the case may be, know that it is normal to have feelings of guilt when your child is diagnosed with CP.

However, remember that you are not responsible for your child’s diagnosis and that you are not alone, as most parents go through these emotions when first learning of their child’s diagnosis.


  1. Reddihough DS and Collins KJ. The epidemiology and causes of cerebral palsy. Aust J Physiother. 2003;49(1):7-12.

There are different types of cerebral palsy

There are many different types of cerebral palsy (CP), which vary in the parts of the body that are affected, the type of impairment and the severity of mobility limitations.

Quadriplegia affects all 4 limbs (arms and legs), diplegia affects 2 limbs (typically both legs) and hemiplegia, or unilateral CP affects one arm and one leg on the same side of the body.1

The severity of mobility limitations in cerebral palsy can differ greatly from one child to the next. Each child with CP is unique, with varying abilities and disabilities. Nonetheless, severity can be generally classified depending on the type of motor function impairment and the part of the body that is mostly affected. Motor symptoms of cerebral palsy can be divided depending on the location of the injury to the brain.

The following illustration shows the different syndromes associated with spastic and athetoid cerebral palsy.

Motor syndromes of cerebral palsy


The types of CP include:

The severity of CP mobility limitations can also be categorized into 5 different levels, according to the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS).3 Each level clearly describes the child’s current physical abilities and whether equipment or mobility aids are or will be needed in the future.

GMFCS E & R between 6th and 12th birthday: Descriptors and illustrations

GMFCS E & R between 12th and 18th birthday: Descriptors and illustrations

It is important to recognise the diversity in CP cases and to remember that every child with CP is unique, requiring personalised, tailored care.



  1. Reddihough DS and Collins KJ. The epidemiology and causes of cerebral palsy. Aust J Physiother. 2003;49(1):7-12.
  2. Prasad AN and Prasad C. Genetic evaluation of the floppy infant. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2011;(16):99-108.
  3. Palisano R et al. Development and reliability of a system to classify gross motor function in children with cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol. 1997;39(4):214-23.

What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?

Sometimes, children with cerebral palsy (CP) are diagnosed several months following birth or even years later.

You may or may not have noticed some early signs of CP, which you will find listed below. Either way, it is always advised to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional, in case of any doubts or concerns.

Some early signs of CP may include:1,2


Bear in mind that not all children with CP will display all of these signs.

David will discuss cerebral palsy management, from diagnosis to adulthood.

→Check here to go to The Journey section.


  1. Colver A et al. Cerebral palsy. Lancet. 2014;383:1240-49.
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Cerebral palsy in under 25s: assessment and management. Full Guideline. NG62. 2017. Available at: