john Gill technology header image

Cerebral Palsy


UK [1]

  • Approximately, one in every 400 children is affected by Cerebral Palsy. 1,800 babies are diagnosed with cerebral palsy in Great Britain each year

What is it?

If someone has cerebral palsy it means that part of their brain is not working properly or has not developed. This will have happened before they were born, around the time of birth or in early childhood. The affected area of the brain is usually one of the parts that control the muscles and certain body movements. In some people, cerebral palsy is barely noticeable. Others will be more severely affected.


Cerebral palsy jumbles messages between the brain and the muscles. There are three types of cerebral palsy, depending on which messages are affected. Many people with cerebral palsy have a combination of two or more types.

Spastic cerebral palsy
'Spastic' means 'stiff' and this form of cerebral palsy stiffens muscles and decreases the range of movement in joints. This tightness is always there and means that someone with spastic cerebral palsy has to work harder to walk or move. This is the most common form of cerebral palsy, affecting different areas of the body. If the person is only affected on one side of their body the term used is hemiplegia. If their legs are affected but their arms are unaffected or only slightly affected the term is diplegia. If both arms and both legs are equally affected then the term is quadriplegia.

Athetoid cerebral palsy
People with athetoid cerebral palsy make involuntary movements, because their muscles rapidly change from floppy to tense in a way they can't control. Their speech can be hard to understand because they have difficulty controlling their tongue, breathing and vocal cords. Hearing problems are also common.

Ataxic cerebral palsy
People with ataxic cerebral palsy find it very difficult to balance. They may have poor spatial awareness. This means it is difficult for them to judge their position relative to other things around them. Ataxia affects the whole body. Most people with ataxic cerebral palsy can walk but they will probably be unsteady. They may also have shaky hand movements and jerky speech.


Cerebral Palsy can affect people from all backgrounds. Some possible causes are:

  • The mother of the baby had an infection in the early part of the pregnancy
  • The baby had a difficult or premature birth, maybe they were unable to breathe properly
  • There could have been some bleeding within the baby's brain
  • Or perhaps, and this is very rare, the baby has a genetic disorder


Other difficulties and medical conditions may occur more commonly in people with cerebral palsy:

  • Children with cerebral palsy may have problems with constipation or sleeping
  • People with cerebral palsy may have problems with speech which are associated with difficulties in chewing and swallowing, and problems understanding the spoken word
  • Some people with cerebral palsy have epilepsy
  • Some people with cerebral palsy may have difficulty distinguishing and comparing shapes. This is to do with visual perception, this means someone's ability to interpret what they have seen, not a problem with their eyesight
  • People with cerebral palsy may have learning difficulties, which means they are slow to learn. The difficulties can be mild, moderate or severe. They may have a 'specific learning difficulty' that is a problem with a particular activity such as reading, drawing or arithmetic, because a specific part of the brain is affected

Further information

Acknowledgements: This section has been developed with the help of SCOPE.


John Gill Technology Limited Footer
John Gill Technology Limited Footer