Cerebral palsy describes a group of disorders of the development of movement and posture, causing activity limitation, that are attributed to non-progressive disturbances that occurred in the developing foetal or infant brain. The motor disorders of CP are often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, cognition, communication, perception, and/or behaviour, and/or by a seizure disorder1.

Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood, with around 600 to 700 infants being born with cerebral palsy in Australia each year. The rate of 2-2.5 cases of cerebral palsy per 1,000 live births has remained relatively stable over the last 60 years2.

In most cases the precise cause of the injury to the developing brain is unknown. Physical disability can range from minimal (e.g. weakness in one hand without discernible effects on activities of daily living) to profound (e.g. permanently restricted to a wheelchair and unable to eat or speak independently, requiring 24 hour care). Associated impairments occur for many people with cerebral palsy and increase the complexity of management for the family, carers and the multidisciplinary teams involved in minimising disability and maximising quality of life. CP can be a complex and debilitating disability.

  1. Rosenbaum P, Paneth N, Leviton A, Goldstein M, Bax M, Damiano D, Dan B, Jacobsson B. A report: the definition and classification of cerebral palsy April 2006. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 2007 Feb;109:8-14
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2008) The Economic Impact of Cerebral Palsy in Australia in 2007. Canberra, AIHW.