Cerebral Palsy

Children with cerebral palsy have difficulty coordinating muscles and often experience symptoms like:
  • ataxia, unsteadiness
  • spasticity, stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes
  • seizures
  • walking with one foot or leg dragging
  • walking on the toes
  • a crouched or scissored gait, walk
  • muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy
The abnormalities that cause cerebral palsy in children can happen for a number of reasons:
  • brain development problems during pregnancy or at birth
  • brain infections (such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis)
  • brain bleeds in premature babies

Children with cerebral palsy experience symptoms that range from mild to severe and generally appear before age 3, sometimes as early as infancy or early childhood.

A to Z: Cerebral Palsy, Infantile

A to Z: Cerebral Palsy, Infantile

Also called: CP; Cerebral Palsy; Spastic Paralysis; Infantile Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a brain disorder that affects muscle tone and motor skills (the ability to coordinate body movements).

Infantile cerebral palsy may be caused by:

  • infections
  • maternal health problems (the health of the mother during pregnancy)
  • genetic mutation (any change in a gene, the information in cells passed down from parents)
  • something else that interferes with normal brain development

Problems during labor and delivery also can sometimes cause CP.


Cerebral palsy makes muscle control and coordination difficult. Everything from standing still and breathing to bladder and bowel control can be affected in someone with cerebral palsy.

CP also can lead to other health issues, including vision, hearing, and speech problems, and learning disabilities. Kids with severe cerebral palsy also may have seizures, speech and communication problems, and sometimes mental retardation.

Key Point

Cerebral palsy does not get worse over time. There is no cure for CP, but treatment, therapy, special equipment, and (in some cases) surgery can have a big impact on a child's development and quality of life.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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Date reviewed: September 05, 2017