Cerebral Palsy

[seh-ree-brul pawl-zee]

Young Boy with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affects a person’s ability to move and keep balance and posture. Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles. Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles. The symptoms and functioning of each person with cerebral palsy varies. Cerebral palsy does not get worse over time, but the exact symptoms can change over a person’s lifetime.

Quiz

Key Facts

  • Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.
  • CDC estimates that about 1 in 345external icon children have been identified with cerebral palsy.
  • Cerebral palsy is more common among boys than girls, and more common among black children than white children.
  • Most cerebral palsy is related to abnormal development of the brain or damage that happened before or during birth, though some is related to abnormal development of the brain or damage after birth.
  • Cerebral palsy is typically diagnosed during the first or second year after birth.

Media

Family Living with Cerebral Palsy
Family Living with Cerebral Palsy

Children with cerebral palsy and their families need support.

Baby
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

A delay in reaching motor or movement milestones, such as sitting up, could be a sign of cerebral palsy.

Silhouette of children walking
Walks Independently

More than 1 in 2 (about 58%) children with cerebral palsy walk independently.

Silhouette of children walking with mobility devices
Walks with Mobility Device

More than 1 in 10 (about 11%) children with cerebral palsy walk with a handheld mobility device.

Silhouette of children in wheelchairs
Limited/No Walking

Less than 1 in 3 (about 31%) children with cerebral palsy walk have limited or no walking ability.

Prevention Tips

In most cases, we do not know why children develop cerebral palsy. Here are some tips for lowering a child’s risk for developing the type of cerebral palsy that occurs after birth.

  • Identify and treat babies who have severe jaundice with special lights (phototherapy) to stop the development of kernicterus, a known cause of cerebral palsy.
  • Get routine shots (vaccinations) for babies to prevent meningitis, another known cause of brain damage that can, in turn, cause cerebral palsy.
  • Properly buckle babies and young children in car seats or booster seats to help prevent head injury, another known cause of cerebral palsy.
  • Become familiar with water and other household safety precautions to prevent drownings and other injuries.

To view a list of movement and other milestones to look for in your child, visit CDC’s Developmental Milestones.

Page last reviewed: August 18, 2021