Working Out Development for Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy development varies among children in motor skills and daily living activities

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D. Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) All children develop at different rates even if there are "averages" that exist for the typical child. Children with disabilities may vary even more in their development.

A recent study found that children with cerebral palsy develop daily activity and living skills at similar rates as healthy peers when they don't have intellectual disabilities.

Cerebral palsy is a broad term used to describe a group of disorders that affect the brain and nervous system.

Symptoms can relate to a person's movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking.

Not all individuals with cerebral palsy have physical or intellectual disabilities, and there is significant diversity among individuals with the condition.

"Discuss your child's development with your pediatrician."

The study, led by Rimke C. Vos, PhD, of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, looked at the typical development expected among children with cerebral palsy.

The researchers studied 424 Dutch participants, aged 1 to 20 when the study began, who were followed once a year for two to four years.

The researchers tracked the participants' development for mobility, intellectual ability and ability to do daily activities.

The researchers found that the children's developmental progression did depend partly on their gross motor functions, but not on their intellectual abilities.

There were a total of 36 gross motor function activities evaluated in the participants.

Gross motor functions include physical abilities like walking, jumping, running, standing with balance, using arms and legs effectively and similar activities.

Development in these skills appeared to taper off in the participants around 12 to 13 years old, meaning the participants were not gaining significant new progress in these areas at that time and had likely reached the higher end of their skills.

Participants' intellectual abilities did not appear to influence their development with these gross motor skills.

However, the participants' development in terms of performing daily activities related more to their intellectual ability.

The researchers looked at 92 daily activities for the participants.

These activities varied depending on a child's age and include personal, community and domestic activities, ranging from brushing one's teeth to being able to sweep or make a meal.

Those participants who had no intellectual disabilities developed at about the same rate as healthy individuals without cerebral palsy in terms of daily activities.

Yet across all levels of severity of cerebral palsy, the ability to learn and do daily activities did not slow down to a stop during the teen years.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy will vary considerably across those with the condition because it is very diverse.

Parents who have a child with cerebral palsy can discuss what to expect developmentally from their individual child with their pediatrician.

"When mobility capacity levels off after childhood, it is important to continue rehabilitation that focuses on valuable and meaningful activities in the context of the person’s daily life," the researchers wrote.

"Participants without intellectual disability were able to reach surprisingly high levels of development and close to values for typically developing peers," they wrote.

"The focus of rehabilitation interventions should be on the functional and intellectual abilities of people with cerebral palsy in context of the personal challenges faced in their daily lives," the researchers wrote.

The study was published September 9 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the Johanna Children's Fund Foundation and the Rotterdam Children's Rehabilitation Fund of the Adriann Foundation.

Review Date: 
September 8, 2013
Last Updated:
September 9, 2013