Western Washington University
March 5, 2012
Cerebral palsy ("CP"), in the broadest possible terms, is a permanent, nonprogressive motor disorder caused by damage to the developing brain. Miller (2005) notes that simply diagnosing someone with CP is roughly equivalent to simply diagnosing someone with cancer, in that cancer can take many different forms with widely varying effects and treatments. Although CP can manifest very differently from one individual to another depending on the location and extent of the brain damage, it is always characterized by poor muscle coordination, poor balance, abnormal movement patterns, or some combination of all three (Miller, 2005). Its effects range from mild (e.g. subtle symptoms not noticeable to the untrained eye) to moderate (mild balance and coordination problems affecting one arm and one leg on the same side of the body) to incapacitating (e.g. nearly complete inability to control muscles in all four limbs). Additionally, it can manifest alone, or in conjunction with other conditions related to the underlying brain damage, some of which might actually impose more limitations than the CP itself.
CP can be caused by many different things, and in many cases the cause cannot be identified. In fact, the most common etiology for CP is “idiopathic,” which means no known cause. (CITATION NEEDED) Etiologies are broadly classified according to the time when the damage occurred to the developing brain: in the womb (congenital), during or immediately after the birthing process (neonatal), or within the first few years of life (postnatal). Most cases of CP, between 80% and 85%, are classified as congenital (Kirby et al., 2011). Known congenital causes include developmental deformities such as neural tube defect or hydrocephalus; viral infections such as rubella or cytomegalovirus; exposure... [continues]
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