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Cerebral palsy (or CP for short) is when someone’s brain has not developed as it should do, so it can’t control the muscles in some parts of the body.

What is it like for siblings if their brother or sister has CP?

Siblings often get on very well with their brothers or sisters who have CP. They might be able to communicate with them really well, when other people find it difficult.  Siblings may have to help their brothers and sisters more if they have CP. They may also worry about them or feel guilty that can do things that their brothers and sisters can’t, like running or riding a bike.

What causes CP?

CP is an injury to the brain. It happens when something stops the brain from developing properly. This may be before the child is born, during their birth, or when they are a baby. Sometimes it is possible to find out what caused it – maybe a serious infection, or a brain injury. But sometimes nobody knows why it happened.

What does it mean?

CP affects everyone differently, as it depends on which part of the brain is affected. Some people will only be affected a little bit and others may be affected a lot. People with CP may have difficulties talking, chewing or swallowing. Their speech may be quite slow and hard to understand and they may find it hard to eat, or need their food cut up small so they don’t choke. They may also find walking difficult – some people will have just one leg affected whilst others may have all their arms and legs affected. Some people may need crutches or splints and others may use a wheelchair. They may have difficulties going to the toilet – either because they can’t get there, or because they can’t control the muscles that allow them to wait. Some people will also have other conditions, like epilepsy, learning disability, or poor sight or hearing. However, many people with CP also live successful, happy lives.

What treatment is there?

CP cannot be cured but there are things that help people with CP:

  • Speech and language therapy to help with talking, chewing and swallowing
  • Physiotherapy or occupational therapy to help to keep muscles working better
  • Operations if muscles get too tight and start to pull the person’s bones out of shape, or stop joints (like the wrist, ankle or hip) from moving
  • Medicines to stop muscles getting too tight
  • Equipment of some sort to help them with their lives – things like wheelchairs or crutches to help them get around, computers to help them write or even to talk for them, or special tools with big handles that are easier to hold

(Information approved by Scope, February 2024)