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Brain injuries that cause cerebral palsy affect a person’s capability of movement, posture and balance. The lack of control over motor function causes varied complications for each person with cerebral palsy.
Due to the many different levels of severity and types of movement problems, there are a variety of different signs of cerebral palsy. Symptoms can also vary based on differing levels of severity. Indications of CP are based on the type of cerebral palsy, neurological factors and secondary factors.
Specific movement problems are the primary indications of cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a group of different motor function disorders caused by injury in different parts of the brain. These motor control problems are the foundation of the multitude of other factors associated with cerebral palsy.
People with cerebral palsy experience different complications based on the location of movement problems. These movement problems usually do not get worse over time, but issues such as a shortening of muscles or tendons may develop without proper management.
While the primary sign of cerebral palsy is a lack of control of motor function, other conditions may present themselves in people with CP. The areas of the brain that control movement are also responsible for regulating other functions. The brain injuries that cause cerebral palsy can therefore cause other neurological complications. In addition to the motor control centers, other parts of the brain may also be injured during, before or after birth.
Not everyone with cerebral palsy experiences the same neurological effects. The signs of CP depends on the location of their brain injury. These effects can make daily life more difficult, but proper care and management can provide a better quality of life.
Common neurological conditions in people with cerebral palsy include:
It is important to note that it is hard to assess the intellectual capacity of children with cerebral palsy when they are very young, especially if speech is an issue. Tests to measure intelligence in children usually require communication and control of their hands. Movement is also essential to a child’s ability to express him or herself. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that seven percent of children with cerebral palsy also have autism spectrum disorder.
Slightly over 41 percent of children with cerebral palsy have co-occurring epilepsy. The severity and frequency of seizures depends on the part of the brain that was affected.
The inability to control motor function can lead to many secondary symptoms. Children who struggle with motor skills have a harder time staying healthy. For example, simple tasks like chewing and swallowing food take more effort for many children with cerebral palsy. People with mild cases of cerebral palsy are less likely than those with severe cases to experience a variety of secondary effects.
Co-occurring conditions commonly associated with cerebral palsy include:
These disorders are generally a result of the brain injury experienced by the child and not a result of a cerebral palsy diagnosis. Oftentimes, secondary conditions may be interrelated. For example, inadequate growth is common because of poor nutrition, which is often a result of feeding issues.
It’s easy to grasp why children with cerebral palsy require so much care and medical attention after learning the physical and neurological conditions they can struggle with. Treatment generally encompasses managing these symptoms in a way that allows those with cerebral palsy to live as normal a life as possible. Being patient and staying proactive is the best way to manage the variety of signs anyone with cerebral palsy may encounter.
To learn more about detecting cerebral palsy, try downloading our free Cerebral Palsy Guide, which includes over 60 pages of in-depth information for children and parents of a child with CP.
Kimberlee is a writer and researcher who is passionate about helping children with disabilities enjoy a happy, healthy life. She works closely with our attorneys to create content that educates the families and caretakers of children with cerebral palsy.