What Is Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy a term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth.

Cerebral palsy affects people in different ways and can affect body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. Although cerebral palsy is a permanent life-long condition, some of these signs of cerebral palsy can improve or worsen over time.

People who have cerebral palsy may also sometimes have visual, learning, hearing, speech, epilepsy and intellectual impairments.


Cerebral Palsy is:

  • A one-time event brain damage
  • Does not continue
  • Complex, with varying effects
  • Difficult to classify
  • NOT infectious
  • NOT a disease it is a disorder

Information Sheet

CLICK HERE to read/download an information sheet about Cerebral Palsy that you can share with friends and family.

New Zealand Stats

  • Every 3 days a baby is born in NZ with Cerebral Palsy
  • There are over 10,000 people living with Cerebral Palsy in NZ but no current data to support the actual number
  • We do have the Cerebral Palsy register which will in time become a comprehensive Source of NZ data.

More on Cerebral Palsy

Children can have problems such as weakness, stiffness, awkwardness, slowness, shakiness and difficulty with balance. In mild cerebral palsy, the child may be slightly affected in one arm or leg, and the problem may be barely noticeable.

In severe cerebral palsy, the child may have a lot of difficulties, with the whole body affected. It must be emphasised that damage to the brain is a one-time event and does not continue. Damaged brain cells cannot be repaired but undamaged brain cells will continue to develop and mature.

The complexity of cerebral palsy and its effects vary from one person to another. It is often difficult to classify precisely which type of cerebral palsy a child has.

The physical effects of cerebral palsy range from very mild to severe. What is often overlooked are the effects that it can have on the family. Grief, anxiety, resentment and anger are often experienced when a child is diagnosed as having cerebral palsy. Each family is unique in its interrelationships, its coping mechanisms and its ability to encourage the cerebral palsy child to achieve full potential.

An understanding of the different types of cerebral palsy makes it easier to appreciate the childs development and how the child learns to move. Cerebral palsy is a complex condition. It is hard to understand all the aspects of it. As new research is published our perception of cerebral palsy changes all the time.

It is not easy to answer epidemiological questions with any great degree of precision. As with chronic disorders not invariably fatal, the difficulties in obtaining accurate information on the frequency of cerebral palsy in the population are substantial. Although surveys have been performed over the decades in Australasia, North America and Europe the differences in methods make comparisons across studies and over time hazardous.

Problems of research with children include:

  • The methodological requirements which include cerebral palsy diagnosis and the assessment of motor problems
  • The variations in data such as numbers, duration and frequency of therapy, the setting, the exact nature of intervention.
  • The independent variables such as age, I.Q., type of cerebral palsy, degree of impairment, parental participation, emotional disturbances, motivation, types of therapy.