Summary: The pathological and physiological background to Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Mental Retardation explained in simple lay-person's language. Last updated January 21, 2007

Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Mental Retardation
What are they ?

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Cerebral Palsy refers to a group of disorders in which a child in the mother's womb, or during birth, or soon after birth gets permanent brain damage in one or more localized patches, leading to disorders in muscle tone and voluntary muscle control, with or without a variable degree of mental deficiency, vision and hearing defects. Sometimes, there are damages as a result of birth defects due to genetic faults.

If the damaged areas conform to the intellectual areas, then the child is born with below normal intellect. These disorders result in Mental Retardation (MR).

If the damaged areas conform to areas controlling muscle movement, tone (resting muscle power that keeps us straight and not flopping about like a sack of potatoes), coordination, and power for voluntary work, then the condition causes a wide variety of movement disorders collectively known as Cerebral Palsy (CP). The consequent stiffness is called Spasticity, hence such persons were also called Spastics (Nowadays, we do not use that term in referring to a CP child).

As a general rule, CP persons have normal, above normal, or near normal intellectual and emotional powers, though a few advanced cases also have a significant MR. Similarly, many MRs also have a variable degree of Spasticity in one or more areas of the body, though it usually does not prevent them from carrying out their daily activities.

Autism is a special subset of mental derangement. For details, click here.

See also anatomical explanation of these disabilities

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