Cerebral palsy describes a group of disorders caused by damage to the immature brain. A child who has cerebral palsy can find it hard to control their muscles, maintain postures and co-ordinate movement and this can make simple activities like getting dressed, eating or playing difficult to do.
It can also affect the way a child interacts with and explores the world, and without effective therapy, can hold back their physical and intellectual development.
Statistics on cerebral palsy are not universally collected, but the UKCP Register has collected data so far on about 6,900 children. It is thought that about one in 500 children in the UK has some form of cerebral palsy, though this may be a slightly low figure. (At the Bobath Centre we believe it is closer to 1 in 400).
Some causes of CP have increased and some have decreased over the last 50 years, so the proportion of one in 500 is thought to have remained about the same. (The uncertainty is because statistics have been collected in different ways, also mild CP may not always have been included in the figures.)
Some further statistics analysed by UKCP:
- About 43% of children with CP are girls and about 57% are boys.
- About half were born before 37 weeks gestation, defined as “premature”.
- About half have spastic cerebral palsy on both sides of the body (“bilateral”).
- A third have hemiplegic spastic cerebral palsy.
- About one in twenty have a dyskinetic and ataxic type of cerebral palsy.
- About one in three is unable to walk.
- About one in four cannot feed or dress themselves.
- About one in five cannot use their hands.
- About three in ten have severe learning difficulties
- About one in fifty has severe hearing loss in both ears.
- About one in eleven has no useful vision.
- About one in four is reported to have epileptic seizures.