Tracking Methods for Cerebral Palsy

Kid sitting in chair smiling

CDC has been studying cerebral palsy (CP) since the early 1980s. By tracking the number of children diagnosed with CP over time, we can find out if the number is rising, dropping, or staying the same. We can compare the number of children with CP in different groups of people and in different areas of the country. This information can help us look for causes and risk factors of cerebral palsy, evaluate the effectiveness of prevention efforts, raise awareness of the signs and symptoms, and help families and communities plan for services. Determining whether these changes affect the rates of CP over time requires ongoing, systematic population-based tracking.

Determining How Many People Have Cerebral Palsy—Tracking

CDC tracks the number and characteristics of children with CP living in several diverse communities across the United States (US). Communities can use CDC’s information on the number and characteristics of children with CP, such as subtype, walking ability, and co-occurring conditions, to plan for services, guide policy, and promote full participation in community and family life. Information about the co-occurrence of CP and other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder, can also help direct research into shared risk factors and causes.
The following are activities that CDC conducts or funds in order to learn more about the number and characteristics of children with CP:

CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network

CDC has resumed CP activities within the ADDM Network, focused on tracking and monitoring CP at 4 funded sites (Minnesota, Missouri, Utah, and Tennessee), and one CDC-managed site in Georgia (MADDSP). CP activities were re-established across the ADDM Network in 2023 and will begin to:

  • Assess a state’s capacity for conducting CP surveillance.
  • Pilot surveillance methods for reporting prevalence and early identification of CP among children aged 4 and 8 in their ADDM Network community.
  • Report preliminary findings of piloting CP surveillance and develop recommendations for inclusion of CP in surveillance year 2024 activities.
  • Implement CP surveillance methodology for surveillance year 2024.

Learn more about the ADDM Network

Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (MADDSP)

MADDSP was established in 1991 to identify children with four disabilities (CP, hearing loss, intellectual disability, and vision impairment). A fifth disability, autism spectrum disorder, was added to the program in 1996. MADDSP conducts ongoing tracking for developmental disabilities among 4-, 8- and 16-year-old children living in the metropolitan Atlanta area. This program has contributed a wealth of information on the characteristics, risk factors, costs, and implications of developmental disabilities, including CP.

Learn more about MADDSP

Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Study (MADDS)

CDC studied how many children in metropolitan Atlanta had CP in the mid-1980s. This project was done as part of the Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Study (MADDS), which studied how common certain disabilities were in 10-year-old children. This study served as the basis for the creation of Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (MADDSP).

One of the key findings of this study was that 16% of children acquired CP more than 28 days after birth. The acquired CP cases were due to: [Read article]

  • Infections, such as meningitis or encephalitis
  • Head trauma, for example, from a motor vehicle accident or fall
  • Cerebrovascular accidents, that is, bleeding or a blood clot in the brain
  • Anoxia or lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Low blood sugar

Findings from this program were published in the following article:

A multiple-source method for monitoring developmental disabilities in children [PDF – 1.71 MB]

Learn more about MADDS