Kentucky's Office for the
Americans with Disabilities Act

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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is not progressive (i.e., does not get worse), though secondary conditions can co-exist and change through time. Though cerebral palsy cannot be "cured", therapy and training can help a person improve his or her ability to function.

Three Basic Forms of Cerebral Palsy

  • Spastic: includes stiff and jerky motions; this is the most common form of cerebral palsy. For example, a person may walk in a "scissored" fashion, which means that the person walks with one leg crossing ahead and then the other.
  • Athetoid: entails constant movements of the arms, legs, face, and tongue that are random, involuntary, and uncontrolled. People with this type of cerebral palsy find it difficult to maintain purposeful motions.
  • Ataxic: is characterized by the inability to maintain normal balance. Problems with depth perception and speech are also associated with this form of cerebral palsy.

Less Common Forms of Cerebral Palsy

  • Tremor: is characterized by the rhythmic shaking movements in one part of the body.
  • Rigid: is evidenced by extreme spasticity as muscles contract slowly and stiffly.
  • Mixed: refers to two or more forms already described.

(From: "Those of Us DisLabeled: A Guide to Awareness and Understanding", University of Kentucky Human Development Institute, Cooperative Extension Service)


  • Be yourself.
  • Speak directly to the individual, not to a friend or companion.
  • Just because the individual with cerebral palsy often has difficulty speaking clearly, it does not mean the person is mentally retarded.
  • Try to give your whole, unhurried attention if the person has difficulty speaking.
  • An individual who has difficulty speaking may use a communication board. The board may be an electronic device or a simple work board with key words, the alphabet, or a combination of the two. A person with both mental retardation and cerebral palsy also may use pictures.
  • An individual with cerebral palsy usually learns as quickly as anyone else, and most can do many things. Do your best to stay calm and relaxed and avoid tension-producing situations. Tension increases muscle rigidity, making it more difficult for a person with cerebral palsy to do things.
  • Fatigue can be a real problem, because simple tasks such as getting dressed or eating meals require more effort for an individual with cerebral palsy than for the rest of us.
  • Allow the person to make choices. You can facilitate this by asking yes/no questions.


For More Information:

Contact the United Cerebral Palsy Association at: 1-800-USA-5-UCP or TTY: (202) 973-7197.

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