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5 Minutes Overview of Cerebral Palsy

Posted on December 15, 2018 by All In

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What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a brain disorder that causes:

  • Abnormal muscle tone: Hypertonia (muscle tightness) or Hypotonia (muscle weakness)
  • Difficulties in controlling movement
  • Irregular posture

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

The exact cause of Cerebral Palsy is not clear. However, it is thought to be due to brain damage or abnormal brain development which occurs before, during or shortly after birth. 

Possible causes of brain damage could occur:

  1. Before birth: Infections such as rubella, cytomegalovius, or toxoplasmosis contracted by the mother during pregnancy.
  2. During birth: A lack of oxygen or physical trauma due to a difficult birth.
  3. After birth: Infections of the brain or a brain injury.

There are several factors that increases a child’s risk of having Cerebral Palsy:

  • Premature birth, especially in babies born before 28 weeks of pregnancy
  • Low birth weight
  • Twin or multiple births
  • Breech presentation (during labour, the baby’s legs come out first before the head)
  • Seizures at birth or shortly after birth
  • Mothers who have health issues during pregnancy such as excessive bleeding, thyroid disease, seizures or proteinuria (high levels of protein in their urine)

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

The brain controls not only movement, but also thoughts, memory, speech, and the function of other organs in the body. Hence, children with CP may also have a range of other symptoms associated with the condition. Not all children with CP will have these issues.

Here are some symptoms which may occur:

How are the different types of cerebral palsy classified?

Cerebral Palsy can be classified according to the type of symptoms and the area of the body that is affected. The condition may cause damage to different areas of the brain which control different parts of the body.

Classification according to symptoms:

  • Spastic:
    • Muscles are stiff and tight
    • Limited movement of the affected limbs
    • Legs tend to be pulled together at the knees and cross like scissors
    • Ankle is bent with toes pointed downwards and inwards
  • Dyskinetic:
    • Muscle spasms
    • Involuntary movements like abnormal postures or repetitive movements occur when moving limbs
  • Ataxic:
    • Muscle weakness (Hypotonia)
    • Lack of coordination of movements (clumsy)
    • Wide-base gait: Walks with feet spread further apart than the hips when walking to compensate for instability and poor balance

Classification according to region:

  • Diplegia: Both legs are affected. Both arms may be slightly affected.
  • Hemiplegia: The arm and leg of one side of the body are affected.
  • Quadriplegia: Both arms and legs are affected. Muscles of the face and body may also be affected.

The symptoms of CP ranges in severity from mild to severe. Children with mild symptoms may be able to walk and run, while those with severe symptoms need others to push them in wheelchairs. There are also children in between who are able to operate their own wheelchair or need special equipment (like crutches or walking frames) to help them walk.

Treatment for Cerebral Palsy

Since the damage to the brain is permanent, and it will not get better or worse over time. The associated effects, however, may improve or worsen as the child grows up. While Cerebral Palsy cannot be cured, the earlier your child begins treatment, the better chance your child has in improving muscle control and and learning ways of coping with his or her symptoms. The treatment of Cerebral Palsy requires a multidisciplinary approach.

Treatments that may help your child include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Therapeutic Horse Riding or Hippotherapy
  • Orthoses
  • Assistive technology devices
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Botulinum Toxin injections

Life with Cerebral Palsy in Singapore

In Singapore, various voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) provide the government-funded Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC). The programmes is designed to help children with special needs develop their skills, maximise their developmental growth and prepare them for primary school education.

Children with CP can attend school. Singapore has Special Education (SPED) schools that cater to the special needs of children with CP.

Additional Resources

Prefer a more audio-visual explanation of CP? Check out the blogpost where we have gathered some helpful videos from the web: ‘Explainer Videos on Cerebral Palsy’

Read more about CP in this detailed article: ‘All About Cerebral Palsy

Looking for all of our CP-specific resources? Head to our go-to guide.


All content found on the All In website, has been created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.