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Defining Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a condition caused by damage to the brain, usually occurring before, during or shortly following birth. "Cerebral" refers to the brain and "palsy" to a disorder of movement or posture. It is neither progressive nor communicable.

It is also not "curable" in the accepted sense, although education, therapy and applied technology can help persons with cerebral palsy lead productive lives. It is not a disease and should never be referred to as such. It can range from mild to severe.

Cerebral palsy is often accompanied by seizures, swallowing, drooling, incoordination, abnormal speech, hearing impairment, visual impairment, and/or mental retardation (mild to severe).


Many people with cerebral palsy can understand what you’re saying. Some learn to communicate with computers.

Cerebral palsy is not inherited, with the exception of a very rare type.

About 25% of cases come from a prenatal cause (virus, unnecessary x-rays, drugs, anemia, lack of proper nutrition, premature delivery).

About 40% of cases are caused by lack of oxygen or an injury during birth or shortly after.

Approximately 30% of the causes are unknown.

500,000-700,000 children and adults in the U.S. have one or more symptoms of cerebral palsy.

How can cerebral palsy be PREVENTED?

Be healthy before conception (the beginning of pregnancy).

Get early, continual prenatal care.

Get immunizations before pregnancy.

Treat the newborn for jaundice, if affected.

Protect the newborn from accidents or injury.

Important advances have taken place in the last 15 years which have had a great effect on the long-term well being of children born with cerebral palsy. Advanced technology, including computers and engineering devices, has been applied to the needs of persons with cerebral palsy.

Technological innovations have been developed in the areas of speech and communication, self-care, and adapting living arrangements and work sites. The future may bring applications that are even more significant.

(Sources: National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, and United Cerebral Palsy Association of Washington.)


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