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As a movement disorder, cerebral palsy almost always affects a child’s mobility. Mobility is defined as the ability to move in one’s environment with ease and without restriction. Problems with walking, rolling over in bed or transitioning positions are examples of mobility limitations.
Children with cerebral palsy have varying degrees of difficulty with movement depending on the type and severity of their condition, as well as the area of the body affected. The following are the most common movement issues based on each type of cerebral palsy:
The location of a child’s movement problems is an important factor when it comes to mobility. For example, a child with spastic hemiplegia will likely have better mobility than one with spastic diplegia or quadriplegia. The following categories describe the location of movement difficulties associated with CP:
The severity of a child’s cerebral palsy can be mild, moderate or severe.
The Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) for cerebral palsy measures voluntary movements. Specifically, the GMFCS measures a child’s ability to function and move around in their daily life with an emphasis on how well they can sit, move between positions and walk.
The GMFCS has five classification levels:
Generally, a low GMFCS level would indicate a mild case of CP, whereas a level 5 would likely result in a more severe cerebral palsy diagnosis.
Gait and motion analysis can also help with identifying and treating mobility issues. Gait and motion analysis involves using computer technology to capture what happens to a patient’s muscles, joints and other forces acting across the joints when they walk. The process usually takes a few hours and it may take several weeks to receive the results.
During gait and motion analysis, the patient will undergo several tests and/or evaluations. A typical gait and motion analysis visit may include the following:
The data gathered during testing is then used to create a virtual 3-D model of the patient’s gait. This detailed look allows doctors and/or therapists to identify specific walking issues and how to best correct or treat them.
Mobility limitations associated with cerebral palsy can often be managed or improved with quality treatment and care. Treatment may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, surgery, medications and/or the use of mobility aids.
It’s important to address a child’s mobility issues as early as possible to ensure other areas of their development are not affected. Any form of mobility, be it independent or assisted, will greatly improve a child’s quality of life and can even increase their life expectancy.
To learn more about the mobility and support options available, 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.