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Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a permanent, lifelong physical disability affecting 34,000 Australians.

It affects movement and posture and is caused by damage to the developing brain during pregnancy or shortly after birth. CP is the most common childhood physical disability.

CP affects body movement, muscle tone, control and coordination, reflex, posture and balance. People living with CP may also experience...

  • uncontrolled or unpredictable movements

  • muscles can be stiff, weak or tight

  • shaky movements or tremors

  • difficulties with swallowing, breathing, head and neck control

  • bladder and bowel control

  • dental and digestive problems.

Additionally to this, people with CP may also have visual, learning, hearing, speech and intellectual impairments, as well as epilepsy.

Symptoms of CP in babies include low muscle tone, muscle spasms, delayed development, feeding or swallowing difficulties, poor muscle control, reflexes and posture. If your child isn’t walking by 12-18 months or speaking simple sentences by 24 months, speak to your GP or paediatrician.

Areas of the body affected by CP, the level of severity and the symptoms can differ for each individual, with some people requiring more support than others.

The four main types of CP are...

  • Quadriplegia: all four limbs are affected and sometimes the muscles of the face and mouth.

  • Diplegia: all four limbs are affected, with the legs more affected than the arms.

  • Hemiplegia: one side of the body is affected.

  • Paraplegia: both legs, but neither arm is affected.

Cerebral palsy doesn't worsen over time, instead the symptoms may change or become more noticeable. If you have concerns about your child, visit your GP or pediatrician.

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