What is Cerebral Palsy?


The exact definition of cerebral palsy differs between countries and changes over time, but Peter Rosenbaum, along with a committee of researchers, defined the diagnosis in 2007 as: “a group of permanent disorders of the development of movement and posture, causing activity limitation, that are attributed to nonprogressive disturbances that occurred in the developing fetal or infant brain. The motor disorders of cerebral palsy are often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, perception, cognition, communication, and behaviour, by epilepsy, and by secondary musculoskeletal problems.

These terms are helpful for generalizing, but they do not describe every possible variation of cerebral palsy, nor do they describe every person’s experience with the diagnosis. Hence, it is important not to make assumptions about the abilities or experiences of a person with CP. 

Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disorder in Canada, as it affects about 2 to 3 out of every 1000 people. It is important that Canadians are educated on CP and how it affects those who have it.

It is also important to note that CP is not a disease, but a diagnosis. Because CP can be caused by so many different events and can manifest in so many different ways, it is problematic to consider it a disease. It cannot spread, nor is it hereditary or inherently life-threatening. As it is not a disease, there is no way to “cure” it, and many people with CP feel that they do not need to be cured. The diagnosis is non-fatal, so children who are diagnosed with CP will grow into adults with CP. The best way to address a diagnosis of CP is to develop a personalized treatment plan for therapy and support for the individual.