What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a group of permanent neurological disorders affecting body movement and muscle coordination primarily appearing in early childhood. Individuals with cerebral palsy often suffer impairment to their fine motor skills and oral motor functioning, in addition to their coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture, and balance.

A number of factors can trigger cerebral palsy in an individual, but most cases are the result of abnormal brain development as an infant. The baby suffers an injury or malformation in its brain before, during, or immediately after birth, leaving them with problems affecting their body movement and muscle coordination that will carry for the rest of their lives.


While the conditions under the blanket term “cerebral palsy” were discovered in the mid-1800s after decades of research, there remains a lot of work to be done before cerebral palsy can be fully treated. While individuals with cerebral palsy can manage their symptoms in a number of ways, there is no permanent cure.

Classification and Symptoms

Cerebral palsy is classified in a number of ways: by the body part it affects, by the way, it affects the individual’s movements, and by how severe those effects are. The condition is principally divided into unilateral (affecting only one side of the body) and bilateral (affecting both sides) types.

Individuals with unilateral cerebral palsy generally have hemiplegia (affecting one arm and one leg). On the other hand, individuals with the bilateral form may suffer from diplegia (affecting both legs) or even quadriplegia (affecting both the arms and legs, as well as much of the trunk, face, and mouth).

The condition can also be broken down by severity, with spastic being the most common (making muscles feel stiff and tight), followed by athetoid/dyskinetic (causing involuntary movements), and ataxic (affecting balance and sense of space). Finally, there is a mixed classification for individuals showing symptoms of all three types simultaneously.

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

As most cases of cerebral palsy begin in childbirth or shortly after, most signs and symptoms of the condition manifest themselves during infancy or preschool years. Symptoms of CP can vary wildly from person to person, but the individual will likely show signs of physical impairment including:

  • Pain and stiffness in limbs
  • Fluctuating muscle contractions causing trembling, shaking, or writing
  • Poor balance, posture, or coordination
  • Difficulty with everyday tasks like grasping objects or tying shoes
  • Trouble breathing, speaking, swallowing, or chewing
  • Vision or hearing impairment
  • Learning impairment or problems with thinking or reasoning
  • Seizures

Symptoms may get more noticeable over the first few years of life, the underlying problems do not worsen over time.


Cerebral palsy is caused by injury or abnormality in brain development, in most cases occurring before the individual is born.


According to the Mayo Clinic, CP can be caused by a number of factors prior to childbirth, including maternal infections, fetal stroke, difficulty during labor, lack of oxygen to the infant’s brain, and gene mutations leading to abnormal infant brain development. After birth, transmission is often the result of traumatic head injury due to a vehicle accident or fall.

Accidents, abuse, medical malpractice, negligence, infections, and injuries are all known risk factors that could lead to CP in infants. About two percent of cases are passed on genetically from parents to children.

In the many cerebral palsy cases, the specific trigger is unknown.

Who Cerebral Palsy Affects

Cerebral palsy is the most common movement disorder in children in the world, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that about 2 out of every 1,000 live births will be born with cerebral palsy. It is estimated to affect about 500,000 children and adults across the United States.

Riley’s Story

Cerebral palsy has affected the team at Thomas Pest Services in a very personal way.

At the age of one-and-a-half, owners Bill Clark and Sarah Thomas-Clark's daughter Riley was diagnosed with mild right-side spastic hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy. Riley has stiffness in her arm and leg, making everyday tasks and movements difficult.

However, she has not let the illness overcome her. She is not as fast, lacks coordination, and struggles with her gross and fine motor skills, but otherwise is no different than her peers. She has never given up, and attends physical therapy three times a week, along with occupational therapy once a week to help with her condition.

Riley is a loving, determined, and smart little girl with a contagious smile, and her courage is an inspiration to everyone that works with her. She is Bill and Sarah's hero and the most important part of their lives.

How Thomas Pest Wants to Help

During the month of March and throughout the year, Thomas Pest Services will be working to raise Cerebral Palsy awareness, a cause near and dear to Bill and Sarah Thomas-Clark. We are asking people to wear the color green to help raise awareness and support for all those who suffer from Cerebral Palsy, especially on March 25th, Cerebral Palsy Day. The team at Thomas Pest Services wears green uniforms on Friday in an effort to raise awareness.

We have three core goals:

1. Raise Awareness: Inform people about cerebral palsy, and the difficulties that individuals living with cerebral palsy face. There are a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding cerebral palsy, but the more educated people are about the disability, the better life will be for those living with CP.

2. Change Behavior: Change the way people interact with individuals with cerebral palsy or other impairments, and eliminate any reservations or insecurities people might have about how to interact with individuals with a disability.

3. Increase Your Knowledge: The more you know about cerebral palsy and the factors that can cause it, the more you can inform those around you. Raising our voices and awareness is what will make a difference.

Bill and Sarah would like to encourage everyone to remain open to both starting and listening to conversations regarding this and other causes. Each day with Riley brings its own challenges, but together, Bill, Sarah, and Riley know that they have the strength to overcome any obstacle.

By raising awareness about the condition, the effects it can have, and the people it touches, we hope that we can work toward a future where kids like Riley and their families have all the resources they need for daily life.