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How is Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed?

Cerebral palsy is diagnosed based on the way a child presents, meaning the way they behave and the abilities they exhibit in a clinical setting. These clinical patterns can be produced by a wide range of underlying impairments, so each person with CP will have different abilities and behaviours from others with the same diagnosis.

The severity of a child’s CP-related difficulties is determined by looking at three factors: 

  • the degree of impairment in body structure and function (e.g., damage at the level of nervous system)

  • the range of activities that the child struggles to do (e.g., limitations of abilities and skills)

  • and the restrictions on the child’s participation in life (e.g., restricted involvement in play and educational pursuits)


However, these difficulties may be linked to many other factors as well, such as home environment, family dynamic, and other underlying conditions, which may affect the determination of severity. For example, a person with CP may live in a rural setting and not have sufficient access to recreational programs, which would affect their physical capabilities. Or a person might have CP in addition to an underlying mental illness, which would affect their cognitive and emotional state. Therefore, it is important to consider interacting medical and environmental conditions when thinking about CP, as with any other diagnosis.


(Rosenbaum 2012) 

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