Cerebral Palsy

One of the most well-known neurological conditions that affects children is cerebral palsy.

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that affects a person’s ability to move (motor) and maintain balance and posture.  


According to the United States’ Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CP is the most common motor disability of childhood and is more common among boys than girls.

In addition, it is more common among Black children than White children.


CP is caused by ‘abnormal’ brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control their muscles.

The risk factors for the development of CP can be grouped under antenatal (before birth), perinatal (during birth) and postnatal (after birth).

Prematurity and low birth weight, intrauterine infections, multiple gestation/pregnancy, drugs and toxins like alcohol and pregnancy complications are a few of the risk factors before birth (antenatal factors).

Birth asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) and complicated labour and delivery are a couple of perinatal factors. After delivery, the risk factors include brain trauma, meningitis/encephalitis. 


The diagnosis of CP involves different steps.

These include tracking the child’s growth and development over time, a short test is given to see if the child has specific developmental delays and developmental. 

In addition, medical evaluations by health professionals are conducted.

Early diagnosis is important to the well-being of the child and their families.

The symptoms of CP can include: delay in reaching developmental milestones such as poor neck control by 6 months, not sitting by nine months, not walking by 18 months, seeming too stiff or too floppy, weak arms and legs, uncontrolled movements, fidgety or clumsy movements, vision difficulties, swallowing difficulties, communication difficulties and learning disabilities.

Symptoms and impact vary from person to person.

The effects of CP can range from minor/mild difficulties to severe impairment.

For example, a person with severe CP might need to use special equipment to help with walking or might not be able to walk at all and need lifelong care while a person with mild CP might walk (with) an unstable gait but might not need any special help.

CP does not get worse over time, however, the features can change over a person’s lifetime. 

The writer is Speech & Language Therapist/Clinical Tutor,
University of Ghana.
E-mail: [email protected] 

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