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Fact Sheet: Cerebral Palsy


Cerebral palsy is the name given to a group of permanent, usually non-progressive disorders marked by loss or impairment of control over voluntary muscles. It results from damage to the developing brain that may occur before, during, or after birth, up to 5 years of age. Cerebral palsy is not a disease and should not be referred to as such. Forms of cerebral palsy include:

  • Spastic: muscles over-contract when stretched, resulting in stiff, jerky motions; joints are sometimes fixed in abnormal positions
  • Athetoid: constant movement of muscles; difficulties with speech because of slurred speech and poor hearing
  • Ataxic: Inability to maintain balance or coordination; individuals may have to be protected from falling or have to wear a protective helmet

Other types do occur, although infrequently. Any one individual may have a combination of these types. Cerebral palsy is often, but not always, associated with a number of other complications which may include:

  • Speech, hearing and vision problems
  • Perceptual problems, which often interfere with learning
  • Approximately one-third of people with cerebral palsy also have mental retardation


United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc.

1660 L Street N.W.; Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
Voice: (202) 776-0406
TTY: (202) 973-7197
Voice/TTY: (800) 872-5827
Fax: (202) 776-0414
Web site:

UCP has many state chapters and affiliated organizations.

Independent Living Research Utilization Project (ILRU)

The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research
2323 South Sheppard, Suite 1000
Houston, TX 77019
(713) 520-0232; (713) 520-5136 (TT)
Web site: