Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy usually appear by the time a child is 2 years old.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy usually appear by the time a child is 2 years old.
beginning of content

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a condition in which the ability to control muscles is reduced due to nervous system damage before, during or after birth. This nervous system damage affects body movement and posture. It often shows up as either floppy or stiff muscles, or involuntary muscle movements.

Cerebral palsy can affect movement, coordination, muscle tone and posture. It can also be associated with impaired vision, hearing, speech, eating and learning.

Children with cerebral palsy tend to miss developmental milestones such as crawling, walking and talking. Usually, a confirmed diagnosis of cerebral palsy is made by the time a child is 2.

If you think your child is showing some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy, or their development may be delayed, see your early childhood nurse or general practitioner.

Cerebral palsy occurs when there is damage to the developing brain in the area that controls muscle tone (the motor cortex). In some cases, the motor cortex fails to develop normally in the fetus.

Depending on the damage, cerebral palsy affects people in different ways and to different extents.

Risk factors for cerebral palsy can be:

  • prematurity and low birth weight
  • some pregnancy complications
  • an infection caught by the mother during pregnancy
  • prolonged loss of oxygen during pregnancy or childbirth, or severe jaundice after birth
  • injury or bleeding in the baby's brain
  • mutations in the genes that affect the brain's development.

The cause remains unknown for most babies with cerebral palsy. There is no single cause of cerebral palsy.

The damage to the brain does not worsen with age, but it's permanent. There is no cure. Life expectancy is normal, but the effects of cerebral palsy can cause stress to the body and premature ageing.

There are four main types of cerebral palsy:

  • spastic, in which the muscles are weak and stiff
  • dyskinetic, characterised by writhing or jerky movements
  • ataxic, in which movement is affected by problems with balance and coordination
  • mixed, with a range of the above characteristics.

Last reviewed: November 2016

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 80 results

Cerebral palsy - NT.GOV.AU

About cerebral palsy, causes, types, prevention, treatment and the cerebral palsy register.

Read more on NT Health website

What Causes Cerebral Palsy? | Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Cerebral palsy is the result of a combination of events either before, during or after birth that can lead to an injury in a babys developing brain. There is no...

Read more on Cerebral Palsy Alliance website

Brain Foundation | Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy Cerebral Palsy Read more at Virtual Medical Centre Description Cerebral palsy is the name given to a large group of motor (body movement) disorders that begin early in life and result from brain injuries that are non-progressive (do not worsen over time)

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Treadmill training for people with cerebral palsy | Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Cerebral Palsy Alliance is a non-profit that provides services to thousands of people with a disability and their families. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a physical disability that affects the way that a person moves.

Read more on Cerebral Palsy Alliance website

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a physical disability caused by damage to the brain before, during, or soon after birth.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Severity of Cerebral Palsy | Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Cerebral Palsy can vary in level of severity which can be classified by gross motor function, manual ability and communication.

Read more on Cerebral Palsy Alliance website

What is cerebral palsy? | Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a persons ability to move. It is a permanent life-long condition, but generally does not worsen over time.

Read more on Cerebral Palsy Alliance website

Conductive education | Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Cerebral Palsy Alliance is a non-profit that provides services to thousands of people with a disability and their families. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a physical disability that affects the way that a person moves.

Read more on Cerebral Palsy Alliance website

Fitness training | Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Cerebral Palsy Alliance is a non-profit that provides services to thousands of people with a disability and their families. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a physical disability that affects the way that a person moves.

Read more on Cerebral Palsy Alliance website

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy | Cerebral Palsy Alliance

People with dyskinetic forms of cerebral palsy have variable movement that is involuntary (outside of their control). These involuntary movements are especially noticeable when a person attempts to move. Dyskinetic...

Read more on Cerebral Palsy Alliance website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback