(CP) is an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious diseases that cause physical disability in human development.
Cerebral refers to the affected area of the brain, the cerebrum (however the centers have not been perfectly localised and the disease most likely involves connections between the cortex and other parts of the brain such as the cerebellum) and palsy refers to disorder of movement.
The incidence of cerebral palsy is about 2 per 1000 live births. The incidence is higher in males than in females.
Many CP are characterised by abnormal muscle tone, posture (i.e. slouching over while sitting), reflexes, or motor development and coordination. There can be joint and bone deformities and contractures (permanently fixed, tight muscles and joints).
The classical symptoms are spasticity, spasms, other involuntary movements (e.g. facial gestures), unsteady gait, problems with balance, and/or soft tissue findings consisting largely of decreased muscle mass.
Babies born with severe CP often have an irregular posture; their bodies may be floppy or stiff. Birth defects, such as spinal curvature, a small jawbone, or a small head sometimes occur along with CP. Symptoms may appear, change, or become more severe as a child gets older. Some babies born with CP do not show obvious signs right away.
There is no known cure for CP. Medical intervention is limited to the treatment and prevention of complications possible from CP’s consequences.
Geri Jewell – Comedian and Actress. Appeared on The Facts of Life television show. Geri Jewell (b. September 13, 1956, Buffalo, New York) is an actor and comedian born with cerebral palsy. She is most famous for her roles on the television program The Facts of Life. and on HBO’s Deadwood.
Geri brings to her presentations personal experience of having her behavior and actions misunderstood because of her cerebral palsy. Geri Jewell is said to be a pioneer for comedians with disabilities.
Anne McDonald – An Australian author and an activist for the rights of people with communication disability. As a result of a birth injury she developed severe athetoid cerebral palsy. She was diagnosed as having severe intellectual disability and at the age of three was placed by her parents in St. Nicholas Hospital, Melbourne, a Health Commission (government) institution for people with severe disability, and lived there without education or therapy for eleven years.
Anne wrote her story in Annie’s Coming Out, a book she co-authored with Rosemary Crossley in 1980 (the film Annie’s Coming Out based on the book won several Australian Film Institute awards and was released in the U.S. under the title Test of Love).
Christy Brown – (June 5, 1932 – September 6, 1981) was an Irish author, painter and poet. The Academy Asard winning film My Left Foot profiled his life. Christy Brown had cerebral palsy and was incapable for years of deliberate movement or speech. Doctors considered him to be mentally disabled as well.
However, his mother continued to speak to him, work with him, and try to teach him until he famously snatched a piece of chalk from his sister with his left foot to make a mark on the floor. He was about five years old and only his left foot responded to his will. His mother then taught him the alphabet and he laboriously copied each letter, holding chalk between his toes. He learned to spell out words and finally to read.
Chris Fonseca – Comedian. Works the American comedy club circuit and has written material for such comedians as Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Roseanne Arnold. Chris Fonseca is the first (and only) person with a visible disability to entertain on The Late Night Show with David Letterman, something that had not been done in the show’s 18 year history.
Chris allows his Cerebral Palsy to be the foundation of many of his stories. He notes that this helps to break down many preconceived barriers about CP. He has released 2 CDs, 1997’s Not Tonight, I Have Cerebral Palsy and 2001’s Get in the Van.
Chris Nolan – Christopher Nolan is an Irish author. He moved to Dublin for an education.He was educated at the Central Remedial Clinic School, Mount Temple Comprehensive School and at Trinity College, Dublin. He was born with cerebral palsy, from birth complications, and writes using a special computer.
He had been deprived of oxygen for two hours when he was born, but his mother believed he could understand what was going on and used to teach him at home. Eventually, they discovered a drug that allowed him to move one muscle in his neck so they attached this unicorn device to his forehead and he learned to type.
Nolan has never spoken or signed a word in his life, yet his poetry has been compared to that of Joyce, Keats, and Yeats. At fifteen, his first book Dam-Burst of Dreams is accepted for publication.
Ruth Senkenwitz Mercer – Sienkiewicz-Mercer was born in Northampton, Massachusetts. She was a healthy baby, but was afflicted with a severe bout of encephalitis at the age of five weeks.
At thirteen months, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy resulting from the encephalitis. Her control over her entire body, except for her face and digestive system, was severely impaired; though not paralyzed, she could not care for herself or communicate through speech as most people know it. Due to her inability to communicate normally, she was diagnosed as an imbecile at five.
Stephen Hawking – Professor Stephen Hawking is a well-known example of a person with MND, and has lived for over 40 years with the disease. Stephen Hawking:
The internationally renowned Physicist, has defied time and doctor’s pronouncements he would not live 2-years beyond his 21 years of age when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The symptoms are very similar to those of CP, Hawking cannot walk, talk, breathe easy, swallow and has difficulty in holding up his head. Hawking, 51, was told 30 years ago, when he was a not-very-remarkable college student.
Steady Eddie – Australian Comedian. Steady Eddy is the stage name of Christopher Widdows, an Australian comedian and actor with Cerebral palsy.
Widdows used his disability as the basis for his comedy. Eddy started at the International Melbourne Comedy Festival where has was rewarded with a Young Australian Achievers Award and has since toured the UK, Canada and USA, released a big-selling CD and video and won two MO Awards and an ARIA for Best Comedy Recording.
Jerry Traylor – A motivational speaker with cerebral palsy. He is the only person to jog across America on crutches. Traylor underwent 14 corrective surgeries and spent nearly a year in the hospital when he was 6 years old.
When crutches replaced the braces holding his legs at age 14, Traylor said he experienced a sense of freedom that was unbelievable. Traylor has also participated in the running of 35 marathons, climbed to the top of 14,110 foot Pike’s Peak, parachuting and other adventures.
Jhamak Ghimire – A poet and writer from Nepal who has won many awards for her writing of literature. Jhamak Ghimire is Nepal’s equal of Helen Keller. Born in 1980 with cerebral palsy, Ghimire’s desire led her to learn to read and write.
She went on to become one of the leading and well respected literary figures of Nepal. She has also become a symbol of courage to people with disabilities around the world.
Thomas Ritter – Attorney and former UCPA Board of Directors. Brother of Actor John Ritter. Father, Tex Ritter, helped start United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc. Thomas Ritter was born with cerebral palsy. In 1979, his brother, John Ritter, helped raise money for the disease.