Cerebral Palsy

Other problems associated with cerebral palsy


Some children may face cognitive, sensory or visual challenges alongside their cerebral palsy. Around half of children will have some degree of learning difficulty (varying in severity). While the other half will be of normal or above average intelligence. And, as Professor Stephen Hawking has hopefully taught the world, while some people may have difficulty speaking, this is no indication of intelligence.

Children with cerebral palsy may also have a range of physical and cognitive impairments:

  • 1 in 3 are unable to walk
  • 1 in 4 are unable to talk
  • 3 in 4 experience pain
  • 1 in 4 has epilepsy
  • 1 in 4 has a behavioural disorder
  • 1 in 2 has an intellectual impairment
  • 1 in 10 has a severe vision impairment
  • 1 in 4 has bladder control problems
  • 1 in 5 has a sleep disorder
  • 1 in 5 has saliva control problems

Source: World CP Day

Sensory problems

Problems with anxiety and sensory processing are often overlooked, and yet can be quite common in children with cerebral palsy who were born prematurely. Some children can find going to sleep and waking up distressing, and so cry a lot. Others don’t receive the sensory information they need from joints to guide movement.

Therapists specialising in sensory problems can work out if a sleep problem or bizarre movement is triggered by a sensory deficit or a motor problem. There are also number of specialist products on the market to alleviate sensory problems around sleep and play.

The signs

Here are some of the signs a child may be experiencing sensory processing problems:

  • They go from deep sleep to fully awake (missing drowsy) and cry because it’s distressing.
  • Hyper-sensitivity in their hands or feet
  • Bizarre movements


CP is often seen as a static condition because it doesn’t progress, but that doesn’t mean a person’s needs won’t change over time. Living with any lifelong condition affecting the muscles and joints will mean greater wear and tear on the body. No one can escape the ageing process (primary aging) or the body’s gradual deterioration, but those with CP also experience secondary ageing. These are the changes that come about because the body is having to cope daily with the additional challenges of a lifeline condition.

Before the 1950s, few people with CP survived to adulthood, now 65% to 90% of children born with CP have a normal or near normal life expectancy*. We now known more about how the body is affected by CP over time. Here are some of the associated health conditions which can relate to growing older with CP.

Issues related to ageing:

  • Pain
  • Contractures
  • Spasms
  • Body maintenance issues
  • Walking and balance issues
  • Movement, task, posture and seating issues
  • Strength issues
  • Transferring issues
  • Breathing issues
  • Orthotic issues

Associated health problems:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Muscle tightness
  • Joint problems
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Fatigue

*Source: Kevin Paterson and Nick Watson, Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research

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