Disability

April 2011

FocusDisability

Cerebral palsy in childhood

Volume 40, No.4, April 2011 Pages 192-196

Dinah Reddihough

Background

Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of physical disability in childhood. While some children have only a motor disorder, others have a range of problems and associated health issues.

Objective/s

This article describes the known causes of cerebral palsy, the classification of motor disorders and associated disabilities, health maintenance, and the consequences of the motor disorder. The importance of multidisciplinary assessment and treatment in enabling children to achieve their optimal potential and independence is highlighted.

Discussion

General practitioners play an important role in the management of children with cerebral palsy. Disability is a life-long problem which impacts on the child, their parents and their siblings. After transition to adult services, the GP may be the only health professional that has known the young person over an extended period, providing important continuity of care.

Cerebral palsy (CP) describes a group of permanent disorders of the development of movement and posture, causing activity limitation.These disorders are attributed to nonprogressive disturbances that occurred in the developing fetal or infant brain. The motor disorders of CP are often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, perception, cognition, communication, and behaviour, by epilepsy and by secondary musculoskeletal problems.1 This definition highlights the complexity of CP and the fact that it is not a single disorder, but a group of disorders with different causes.

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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