Cerebral palsy (CP) is one of the most common congenital disorders of childhood. It is a medical condition caused by a permanent brain injury that occurs before (Prenatal), during (Perinatal), or shortly after birth (Postnatal). Thus the malformation of the brain can exist at birth or caused by factors occurring during the birthing process or after. Cerebral palsy is a non- progressive disease; however, the effects have been known to change over time. This non curable, non contagious and non progressive disease is most noticed because of its affects on physical ability in human development. This is because it is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements. The United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Foundation estimates that nearly 800,000 children and adults in the United States are living with one or more of the symptoms of cerebral palsy. According to the Federal Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year about 10,000 babies born in the United States will develop Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral palsy is more common than generally realised. Currently, it is believed that about one in every 400 children is affected by the condition, i.e. about 1,800 babies are diagnosed with cerebral palsy in Great Britain each year. In Trinidad and Tobago there are about 4000 children with cerebral palsy which includes documented and undocumented cases, many of whom have been misdiagnosed with other developmental disorders (Cerebral Palsy Society of Trinidad and Tobago, 2008). Cerebral palsy can affect people from all social backgrounds and ethnic groups.
Throughout history children have been born with maldeveloped or injured brains. Among the sculptured monuments of Egypt and early stone carvings of Mexico are figures of individuals who appear to be cerebral palsied. The term Cerebral Palsy (CP) began to be widely used, in the 19th century by writers such as William Little, a surgeon who elaborated on the condition which he referred to as “spastic rigidity” (1862), Sigmund Freud (1897) and the physician William Osler (1889). Osler’s book The Cerebral Palsies of Childhood which came in the second half of the nineteenth century when many physicians were interested in children with paralyses associated with intracranial pathology, led to the widespread use of the term to describe children with ‘palsies’ that were cerebral in origin, as opposed to the other types of palsy, which can be divided into three groups: 1) orthopaedic palsies such as congenital dislocation of the hips, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, amputations and land mines injuries; 2) muscular palsies, e.g. the muscular dystrophies, the myopathies and inflammatory muscular diseases, and 3) spinal palsies, e.g. spina bifida, spinal muscular atrophies, poliomyelitis and spinal trauma (Bax & Brown, 2004). Of special significance was Freud’s book Infantile Cerebral Paralysis published in 1897, which influenced physicians of the time but was not widely known in America until translated in 1968. The term cerebral palsy received wide professional acceptance when in 1947, a group of physicians founded The American Academy for Cerebral Palsy now The American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (Mc Donald, 1987). In Trinidad and Tobago The Cerebral Palsy Society was established in 1993 and has been functioning as a Non Governmental Organization ever since.
Classification of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral refers to the affected area of the brain; the cerebrum (however the centers have not been perfectly localized and the disease most likely involves connections between the cortex and other parts of the brain such as the cerebellum) and palsy refers to disorder of movement. Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to the motor control centers of the young developing brain and can occur during pregnancy (about 75 percent), during childbirth (about 5 percent) or after birth (about 15 percent) up...