Effects of Cerebral Palsy
Children and adults with Cerebral Palsy cannot control some or all of their movements. Some people are hardly affected at all. Some will have difficulty talking, walking or using their hands. Some will be unable to sit up without support and will need help to do most everyday tasks. An individual with Cerebral Palsy may have some or most of the following features, slightly or more severely:
- Slow, awkward or jerky movements
- Muscle spasms
- Unwanted movements
- The start of one movement often results in other unwanted movements.
As stated previously, Cerebral Palsy is not progressive (that means it does not become more severe as the child gets older) but some difficulties do become more noticeable. Certain difficulties and medical conditions occur more often in children with Cerebral Palsy than in most other children. However no two children experience exactly the same difficulties.
About one in three individuals with Cerebral Palsy face epilepsy, but it is impossible to predict whether or not a person will develop seizures. If a child does develop epilepsy, it is very often possible to control seizures with medication.
The most common eye problem is a squint, which may need rectification with glasses, or in severe cases, an operation. Some people may have cortical vision defect. This means that the part of the brain that is responsible for understanding the images the child sees is not functioning properly. When examined the eyes may appear healthy, but he or she will not be able to see properly. The difficulty is in unscrambling the messages received from the brain, when learning to read for example.
People with athetoid Cerebral Palsy are more likely to have severe hearing difficulties than other children, though this is not the case for children with other forms of Cerebral Palsy.
Children with Cerebral Palsy may experience learning difficulties.
Children and adults with Cerebral Palsy may experience other physical difficulties like: constipation, difficulty controlling body temperature, not putting on much weight, chilblains, a tendency to be chesty, behavioural problems due to frustration, and sleep worries. In most cases, there is a lot you can do to overcome or minimize these difficulties. Your GP or health specialist will be able to advise.
Some children and adults with Cerebral Palsy cannot perceive space in relation to their own bodies which means they have trouble judging distances, or they cannot think spatially, so they hit a snag when asked to visualise a three dimensional object. This is due to an abnormality in a part of the brain, and is not related to intelligence.
Speech problems and difficulties with chewing and swallowing often occur together in children with Cerebral Palsy. Speech depends on the ability to be in command of little muscles in the mouth, tongue, palate and voice-box. Speech therapists can assist in this area. Most people with Cerebral Palsy learn some form of verbal communication, while alternative and augmentative communication aids can assist those who are more severely affected.