Cerebral palsy is considered a neurological disorder caused by a non-progressive brain injury or malformation that occurs while the child’s brain is under development. Cerebral palsy primarily affects body movement and muscle coordination. Though cerebral palsy can be defined, having cerebral palsy does not define the person that has the condition.
- Infections during pregnancy
- Severe jaundice in the infant.
- Rh incompatibility between mother and infant.
- The physical and metabolic trauma of being born..
- Severe oxygen deprivation to the brain or significant trauma to the head during labor and delivery.
- Breech births (with the feet,knees, or buttocks coming out first).
- Vascular or respiratory problems in the infant during birth.
- Physical birth defects such as faulty spinal bone formation, groin hernias, or an abnormally small jaw bone.
- Receiving a low Apgar score 10 to 20 minutes after delivery. An Apgar test is used to make a basic, immediate determination of a new born’s physical health. For the test, the infant’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflexes, and color are evaluated and given a score from 0 (low) to 2 (normal).
- A low birth weight and premature birth
- Being a twin or part of a multiple birth.
- A congenital nervous system malformation, such as an abnormally small head (microcephaly).Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms
There are some signs that may indicate a child has cerebral palsy. Not all signs are visible at birth and may become more obvious as babies develop.
- Low muscle tone (baby feels ‘floppy’ when picked up)
- Unable to hold up his/her own head while lying on their stomach or in a supported sitting position
- Muscle spasms or feeling stiff
- Poor muscle control, reflexes and posture
- Delayed development (can’t sit up or independently roll over by 6 months)
- Feeding or swallowing difficulties
- Prefers to use one side of their body
Physiotherapy programs are designed to encourage the patient to build a strength base for improved gait and volitional movement, together with stretching programs to limit contractures. Many experts believe that lifelong physiotherapy is crucial to maintain muscle tone, bone structure, and prevent dislocation of the joints.
Speech therapy helps control the muscles of the mouth and jaw, and helps improve communication. Just as CP can affect the way a person moves their arms and legs, it can also affect the way they move their mouth, face and head. This can make it hard for the person to breathe; talk clearly; and bite, chew and swallow food. Speech therapy often starts before a child begins school and continues throughout the school years.
Conductive education (CE) was developed in Hungary from 1945 based on the work of András Pető. It is a unified system of rehabilitation for people with neurological disorders including cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, amongst other conditions. It is theorized to improve mobility, self-esteem, stamina and independence as well as daily living skills and social skills. The conductor is the professional who delivers CE in partnership with parents and children. Skills learned during CE should be applied to everyday life and can help to develop age-appropriate cognitive, social and emotional skills. It is available at specialised centres.
Biofeedback is a therapy in which people learn how to control their affected muscles. Biofeedback therapy has been found to significantly improve gait in children with cerebral palsy.
Massage therapy is designed to help relax tense muscles, strengthen muscles, and keep joints flexible. More research is needed to determine the health benefits of these therapies for people with CP.
Occupational therapy helps adults and children maximise their function, adapt to their limitations and live as independently as possible. A family-centred philosophy is used with children who have CP. Occupational therapists work closely with families in order to address their concerns and priorities for their child.