Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a term which refers to a group of conditions which cause a variety of physical disabilities in people. And in some cases it can cause both hearing and visual impairments to develop. Cerebral refers to the part of the brain which is affected by the condition, the cerebrum, and palsy is associated with the disorder of movement. This is due to the fact that the condition is mainly characterised by an inability to control motor functions. Although no two people are affected by CP in exactly the same way, common symptoms include; muscle tightness or spasm, involuntary movement or a disturbance in gait. CP is not contagious, nor is it a progressive condition, meaning it will not gradually progress or change for the worse. The condition is caused by damage to the brain, not to the muscles and this may occur before, during or immediately following birth. This can be caused by several factors such as a lack of oxygen, poisoning, illness and head injury.

Symptoms

In addition to problems with motor functions, those who have CP can also experience a wide variety of conditions including;

  • Impairment of sight, hearing or speech
  • seizures
  • mental retardation
  • skin disorders
  • learning difficulties
  • problems with bladder and bowl control

CP ranges from case to case and can be very severe or fairly mild. Some children experiencing mild CP might take longer to be diagnosed as the symptoms are not as pronounced. There's three main kinds of CP;

Athetoid - This type of CP produces involuntary or uncontrolled movement
Ataxic - This produces a disturbed sense of balance and may affect the sufferers awareness of their position in space
Spastic - This type of CP produces difficult or stiff movements

The majority of those with CP also have some form of visual impairments. CP can affect your field of vision, which is everything you can see when looking straight ahead. Sufferers of CP can experience certain types of field loss, where parts of the field may be missing. This can include;

Hemianopsia - Where the right or left upper or lower half of the field is missing
Central loss - Where the centre of the field is missing
Islands of vision - Where you can only see scattered spots
Scotomas - Where only isolated spots are missing
Peripheral loss - Vision is missing from at the sides

Those suffering from CP can also experience conditions which can affect depth perception and eye movements. These are known as oculomotor problems which include;

Esotropia - Where the eye turns in towards the nose
Exotropia - Where the eye turns out towards the ears
Hypertropia - Where the eye turns up
Hypotropia - Where the eye turns down
Amblyopia - Also known as a 'lazy' eye

A minority of those with CP (around only 20%) experience problems with language or hearing. Language problems occur because the muscles used to produce speech are affected by the condition. This is known as dysarthria and may cause speech to be slow or slurred. It can also cause the sufferer to sound very nasal if too much air comes through the nose. Similarly, too little air coming through the nose can make the speaker sound as if they have a bad cold. Research into hearing loss due to CP has indicated the cause to be sensorineural, meaning the cause lies in the vestibulocochlear nerve, the inner ear or certain processing centres within the brain. And if hearing and vision losses are both present, it's recommended that an educational approach for deafblindness is used.