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Cerebral Palsy

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Understanding the condition


Cerebral Palsy is the term used to describe a range of neurological conditions. Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to the brain, this can occur before, during or after pregnancy as a result of:

  • Limited or interrupted oxygen supply to the brain

  • A bleed within the baby's brain

  • A premature or difficult birth process

  • The mother catching an infection whilst pregnant

  • Changes in genes which affect the development of the brain

An individual with Cerebral Palsy may experience difficulties with muscle control, coordination, and tone, reflexes, posture and balance. The condition varies from person to person. However, with the right support a person with Cerebral Palsy can lead a happy and fulfilled life.

There are three types of Cerebral Palsy:

  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy - This is most common form of Cerebral Palsy. It is caused by damage to the motor cortex of the brain and affects muscle stiffness or weakness.

    • ​Individuals who have Spastic Cerebral Contractures, or joints will not extend fully

    • Movements can be exaggerated

    • Abnormal reflexes

    • Abnormal gait

    • Crossed knees

    • Walking on tiptoes

  • Athetoid Cerebral Palsy- This is caused by damage to specific parts of the brain, namely the basal ganglia and the cerebellum . It affects muscle tone, causing involuntary spasms. It can be further classified into:

    • Athetosis - Slow movements of the fingers or the face

    • Dystonia - Slow rotating movements of the torso, arms or legs

    • Chorea - Sudden spasms in fingers and toes

    • Rigidity - Limited movement

    • Dyskinesia - General involuntary movements


  • Ataxic Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to the brain’s motor control centres during development. In general it affects balance and coordination, however can also have an impact on posture, communication and motor learning.


It is not possible to cure Cerebral Palsy however physiotherapy and other therapies including can support an individual to become more independent. Find out from your students family/carer if they are accessing any physiotherapy or other therapy, and whether there are ways you can support the child in school to practice skills and techniques used in the therapies.

 Click here for more information on types of therapies. 

Associated conditions


Individuals with Cerebral Palsy may also experience one or more of the following:

  • Problems with sleep

  • Communication difficulties

  • Feeding difficulties

  • Drooling                                                                                            

  • Problems with toileting

  • Behaviour issues (around one in four children with cerebral palsy)

  • Periventricular leukomalacia

  • Learning difficulty

  • Epilepsy (around a third of children with cerebral palsy)

  • Hearing impairment (around 8% of children)

Challenges faced by students



To understand how bullying can impact individuals with Cerebral Palsy  watch this video .



As a condition, cerebral palsy will have some impact on a child’s mobility, the extent will depend on the type and severity of cerebral palsy.

  • ​Spastic – Individuals with spastic cerebral palsy tend to experience jerky movements, stiff and tight muscles, and an awkward gait or manner of walking.

  • Athetoid – Athetoid cerebral palsy is also known as dyskinetic CP. An individual will tend to have involuntary movements, fluctuations in muscle tone and problems with posture.

  • Ataxic – Individuals with ataxic cerebral palsy have shaky movements and problems with balance and depth perception. They often spread their feet apart when walking

  • Mixed – An individual with mixed cerebral palsy will have a combination of spastic, athetoid or ataxic movement difficulties.


​The location of an individual’s movement difficulties is an important factor with mobility. For example an individual with spastic hemiplegia will likely have better mobility than one with spastic diplegia or quadriplegia

  • Monoplegia – Only one limb is affected. Monoplegia is very rare.

  • Diplegia – Both legs are affected. The arms may be affected to a lesser extent.

  • Hemiplegia – One side of the body — one arm and one leg — is affected.

  • Triplegia – Three limbs, usually both legs and one arm, are affected. This is sometimes referred to as diplegia with a hemiplegic overlay.

  • Quadriplegia – Both arms and both legs are affected. The muscles of the trunk, face and mouth may also be affected.

  • Double Hemiplegia – Both arms and both legs are affected, but the arms are usually more affected.


Severity of an individual’s cerebral palsy can be classed as mild, moderate or severe.


Gaining support for your child’s mobility as early as possible is important and can not only improve their mobility but also their well-being and life expectancy.


For more information on supporting a child’s mobility, visit: 


Communication issues

 Click here  for Communication tips


Behaviour and well-being

 Click here  for support with challenging behaviour


Hearing difficulties

 Click here  for support with Hearing impairment


Sight difficulties

 Click here  for support with Visual Impairment


Bladder and bowel control

Urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence and constipation are common bowel and bladder problems among children and adults with cerebral palsy. It therefore may take a child with cerebral palsy longer to toilet train than his/her peers.

If a child with Cerebral Palsy in your class is experiencing difficulties with toilet training, sensitively discuss this was their family/ carers and develop a plan of action.



A person with Cerebral Palsy may experience eating difficulties for a number of reasons, these include:

  • structural abnormalities

  • psychological or behavioural conditions

  • motor or sensory impairments

  • or something unrelated to a condition

 Click here  for advice on supporting an individual with Cerebral Palsy to eat.