It makes sense when answering the question, ‘What does cerebral palsy mean?’ To start with the words themselves. A literal translation of cerebral palsy (CP) is brain paralysis. CP is a congenital brain disorder meaning; it is acquired before or during the birth of the child. However, there are a few cases where the condition only manifests during the early years of the child.
In CP certain parts of the brain, often those parts that affect movement, posture, and speech, are paralyzed or damaged. This is why those who are suffering from the condition have difficulty moving and speaking. Likewise, there are also cases where the damage in the brain affects growth and muscle development as well.
Sometimes, people who have CP also experience cognitive/learning difficulties, which may be caused by the damage in the brain as well. Though it should be pointed out that cerebral palsy and learning difficulties do not go hand in hand. CP is caused by damage to the motor functioning part of the brain not the cognitive/learning parts.
To fully grasp what does cerebral palsy mean, then it will be helpful to learn about the five major types of the condition. The first is the spastic cerebral palsy, which happens when the damage is located on the part of the brain that controls muscle coordination and movement. They will have difficulty in controlling their movement, as their actions tend to be stiff and rigid.
Those who are suffering from athetoid cerebral palsy may also experience difficulty in controlling their movements too. The difference, however, is that they are jerky as they often experience involuntary movements like a continuous nodding of the head or constant flailing of the hand.
A child without CP will offer resistance when you move one of their limbs, but a child with hypertonic CP is loose and floppy. It is believed that this type of CP is caused while a baby’s brain is still developing.
Ataxic cerebral palsy, is characterized by poor balance and posture. Due to poor muscle tone movements are poorly co-ordinated. In addition to this, they also have poor depth perception, which is why it is very hard for them to focus on particular things. This combines makes tasks like picking up small objects etc very difficult to do.
The last category is called mixed. If a child does not fit neatly into any one group they will be described as mixed. This is quite common.
Now that we have some answers to the question: ‘What does cerebral palsy mean?’ it is helpful to point out that CP is not contagious, that’s why it is called a condition and not a disease.
Treatment for CP varies but some form of physiotherapy is generally beneficial to help with stiffness in the muscles, as well as helping to maintain the full range of motion in a joint.
Surgery is also an option, for example my son has right sided hemiplegia. The Achilles tendon in his right leg is very tight and it is likely that as he gets older surgery will be needed to rectify this.