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What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is caused by a problem in the parts of the brain responsible for controlling muscles. The condition can occur if the brain develops abnormally or is damaged before, during or shortly after birth.

Causes of cerebral palsy include:

  • An infection caught by the mother during pregnancy

  • A difficult or premature birth

  • Bleeding in the baby’s brain

  • Changes (mutations) in the genes that affect the brain's development

It is estimated that 1 in 400 people in the UK is affected by cerebral palsy.

The symptoms of cerebral palsy normally become apparent during the first three years of a child's life. The main symptoms are:-

  • Muscle stiffness or floppiness

  • Muscle weakness

  • Random and uncontrolled body movements

  • Balance and co-ordination problems

These symptoms can affect different areas of the body and vary in severity from person to person. Some people will only have minor problems, whereas others will be severely disabled.

Many people with cerebral palsy also have a number of associated problems, including repeated seizures or fits, drooling problems and swallowing difficulties. Some people with the condition may have communication and learning difficulties, although intelligence is often unaffected.

There is no cure for cerebral palsy. However, there are numerous treatments available, which can treat many of its symptoms and help people with the condition to be as independent as possible.

A child with cerebral palsy may be slower in achieving important developmental goals, such as learning to crawl, walk or speak.


More information

  • If you are concerned about your child’s development then you should speak to your child’s GP.
  • There is also some helpful information on the Scope website which features the voices of children and young people affected with Cerebral Palsy describing the condition.
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