What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition which affects muscle coordination and movement. It is caused by damage to the brain which occurs ‘perinatally’, meaning around the time of birth, including pregnancy, labour, and delivery or soon after birth.

A formal diagnosis of cerebral palsy may not be made for several months or even years following birth, depending on the severity of the symptoms. The severity and effects of cerebral palsy vary from person to person depending on the timing, duration, location, and level of the injury to their brain. 

There are many potential causes of cerebral palsy including medical negligence. Boyes Turner has extensive experience of making claims for children with cerebral palsy as a result of medical negligence. 

What are the effects of cerebral palsy?

The physical effects of cerebral palsy include impaired muscle control, coordination, tone, reflexes, posture, and balance. These can affect mobility, dexterity, feeding, communication, and independence.

Many children with cerebral palsy retain their cognitive and intellectual abilities; with support they are able to study at school, college or university and go on to achieve gainful employment. However, where the brain damage is more severe, the affected person may also suffer from cortical blindness, epilepsy, a severe learning disability or a total inability to communicate.

What does cerebral palsy mean?

The term ‘cerebral palsy’ comes from Latin words for the brain (cerebrum) and paralysis. It is used to describe varying degrees of neurological disability, affecting motor coordination and movement. Sometimes there are additional learning disabilities, caused by brain damage before, during or immediately after birth.

What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?

The symptoms of cerebral palsy and the extent of any disability varies from individual to individual. A diagnosis of cerebral palsy doesn’t mean that the affected person will suffer the entire range of possible symptoms. Individual symptoms may be caused by other conditions and are not necessarily indicative of cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is non-progressive; this means that the severity of symptoms remains relatively constant, although the full extent of the disability may not become apparent for a number of years.

Due to the complexity of symptoms cerebral palsy may not be apparent at birth and in the baby’s infancy. Symptoms tend to develop or become noticeable over time. Often a child’s cerebral palsy becomes apparent when they are clearly failing to meet developmental milestones, such as sitting or walking. Even after a diagnosis of cerebral palsy has been made, it may take years before the full extent of a child’s condition and their outlook for the future can be determined, as the condition will continue to change with the child’s growth and development. 

Common symptoms of cerebral palsy 

  • delayed developmental milestones, such as sitting or walking;
  • abnormal muscle tone – being too stiff or too floppy;
  • weakness in limbs;
  • clumsy or jerky movements;
  • uncontrolled movements;
  • walking on tip-toes;
  • swallowing difficulties;
  • problems with speech;
  • visual impairment;
  • learning disabilities.


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