Cerebral palsy is a type of neurological disorder (that is, a disorder relating to the brain) that develops before birth or in children under the age of five. Cerebral palsy amongst children is a consequence of brain damage, during their formative years. Majority of children suffering from cerebral palsy are born with it. This could happen while still in the womb due to the mother’s poor health or injury while pregnant. It could also happen at birth, for instance, due to premature and underweight birth, complications during labour, severe jaundice at birth, or oxygen deprivation and trauma during labour and delivery. It could also happen during the first few months or years of a child’s life, for instance, due to an accident, injury, brain infections (such as meningitis) or child abuse.
In a child suffering from cerebral palsy, the part of the brain that controls muscle movements has developmental abnormalities. This is why these children have problems with body movement, muscle coordination and control, posture, balance and motor skills, and they may not be able to perform simple tasks such as sitting, grasping objects or walking. However, the extent of the symptoms differs on a case to case basis.
There are three types of cerebral palsy:
Spastic cerebral palsy which causes stiffness and movement difficulties
Athetoid cerebral palsy which leads to involuntary and uncontrolled movements
Ataxic cerebral palsy which causes problems with balance and depth perception
The disease is permanent but non-progressive, meaning that it does not get worse over time. It is also not life threatening.