Effects of Cerebral Palsy on a Child's Development

Some children with cerebral palsy are confined to a wheelchair.

Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it affects each child differently. This condition is caused by injury or lack of development to the child’s brain during pregnancy or shortly after birth. Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive condition -- the injury stays the same and the symptoms do not worsen with age. However, the symptoms can become more pronounced as the child grows and struggles to develop physically, cognitively and socially.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006, 33 percent of children with cerebral palsy had limited or no walking ability. A child with cerebral palsy may require the use of a walker or wheelchair, and might favor one side of her body over the other, resulting in delays in crawling and walking. Cerebral palsy can also cause impaired movement, involuntary movements, and abnormal posture. According to MayoClinic.com, a child with cerebral palsy might also have vision and hearing problems. All of these physical limitations and challenges can cause your child to reach developmental milestones at a slower pace.


Cerebral palsy might be accompanied by a perception disorder that makes it harder for a child to master cognitive abilities like fine motor skills. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 40 percent of children with cerebral palsy suffer from an intellectual disability. In some cases, the condition can result in mental retardation, all of which can hinder or halt development in the areas of language or critical thinking.


A child with cerebral palsy can also have challenges with social development, especially if a speech problem is present. Communication can be challenging, and cerebral palsy can hinder the development of social skills like empathy and consistent interaction. The differences between a child with cerebral palsy and the other children in his peer group can also lead to overall social isolation.


The developmental challenges faced by a child with cerebral palsy can be helped with a long-term care plan that might include developmental therapy, speech therapy, mental health evaluations and special education classes. In some cases, a doctor might prescribe medication to improve muscle function and encourage physical developmental skills. MayoClinic.com recommends that parents of children with cerebral palsy encourage any effort of independence.