CP Frequently Asked Questions

What is Cerebral Palsy?
What causes Cerebral Palsy?
What does the VCP do?
What’s it like to live with CP?

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy (cp) is a term used to describe a group of disorders affecting body movement and muscle co-ordination. The medical definition of CP is a non-progressive but not unchanging disorder of movement and/or posture, due to an insult to or anomaly of the developing brain.

Development of the brain starts in early pregnancy and continues until about age three. Damage to the brain during this time may result in CP. This damage interferes with messages from the brain to the body, and from the body to the brain.

The effects of CP vary widely from individual to individual. At its mildest, CP may result in a slight awkwardness of movement or hand control. At its most severe, CP may result in virtually no muscle control, profoundly affecting movement and speech.
Depending on which areas of the brain have been damaged, one or more of the following may occur:

  • Muscle tightness or spasm

  • Involuntary movement

  • Difficulty with gross motor skills such as walking or running

  • Difficulty with fine motor skills such as writing and speaking

  • Abnormal perception and sensation

  • The brain damage which caused CP may also lead to other conditions such as:

  • Seizures

  • Learning disabilities

  • Developmental delay

It is important to remember that limbs affected by CP are not paralyzed and can feel pain, heat, cold and pressure. It is also important to remember that, just because someone with CP may not be able to speak, it does not mean she has nothing to say. The degree of physical disability experienced by a person with CP is not an indication of her level of intelligence.

CP is not a progressive condition - damage to the brain is a one time event so it will not get worse - and people with CP have a normal life span. Although the condition is not progressive, the effects of CP may change over time. Some may improve: for example, a child whose hands are affected may be able to gain enough hand control to write and to dress herself. Others may get worse: tight muscles can cause problems in the hips and spines of growing children which require orthopaedic surgery; the aging process can be harder on bodies with abnormal posture or which have had little exercise.