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Characteristics of Students with Physical or Health Disabilities (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Cerebral Palsy

The severity of the condition depends on the precise location of brain damage, the degree of brain damage, and the extent of involvement of the central nervous system (UCP, 2001). Individuals with cerebral palsy whose motor functioning is affected show these characteristics alone or in combination: jerky movements. spasms, involuntary movements, and lack of muscle tone. Often, individuals with cerebral palsy have multiple disabilities, probably resulting from the same damage to the brain that caused the cerebral palsy. For example, many individuals who have severe difficulties in motor functioning also have trouble mastering oral speech. These individuals have speech impairments and physical disabilities. Although some degree of mental retardation is present in about half of the children with cerebral palsy, others are intellectually gifted. It is a tragic mistake to assume that cerebral palsy and mental retardation always occur in combination. There are four ways in which areas of the body can be affected by cerebral palsy: monoplegia, paraplegia. hemiplegia, and quadriplegia.

Another way in which cerebral palsy is classified is in terms of how the individual's movement is affected:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy: Movements are very stiff.
  • Athetoid cerebral palsy: Involuntary movements are purposeless or uncontrolled, and purposeful movements are contorted.
  • Ataxia cerebral palsy: Movements such as walking are disrupted by impairments of balance and depth perception.

Many individuals with cerebral palsy have impaired mobility and poor muscle development. Even if they can walk, their efforts may require such exertion and be so inefficient that they need canes, crutches, or a wheelchair to get around. Students with cerebral palsy may also need braces to help support the affected limbs and make them more functional or to prevent contractures that would eventually lead to bone deformities and further mobility limitations. Proper positioning of the body also must be considered. Many children need wedges, pillows, and individually designed chairs and worktables so that they can be comfortable; breathe easier; avoid injuries. contractures, and deformities; and participate in group activities.

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