Cerebral Palsy - A Lifelong Partner

Every person who has cerebral palsy is unique. CP describes many different types of disability, ranging from mild to severe, with different causes, affecting individuals in many ways. It is difficult to estimate exactly how many people have CP. Many people with mild CP are never diagnosed, while others may have multiple disabilities which overshadow their CP. It is estimated that about 2,5 out of every 1000 babies are affected to some extent. There are over 6 500 people in Finland who have CP.

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a term used to describe a group of disorders affecting body movement and muscle co-ordination. The medical definition of cerebral palsy is a "non-progressive" but not unchanging disorder of movement and/or posture, due to an insult to or anomaly of the developing brain. Development of the brain starts in early pregnancy and continues until about age three. Damage to the brain during this time may result in cerebral palsy.

I was born over two months prematurely, and I got my diagnosis of spastic diplegia (my legs are more severely affected than my arms) when I was two years old and still unable to walk. After that I started my weekly Physical Therapy sessions. CP is not considered a curable condition and the word "management" is used more often than "treatment". Actually my childhood was quite ordinary and happy. CP interferes with messages from the brain to the body, and from the body to the brain. The effects of cerebral palsy vary widely from individual to individual.

Depending on which areas of the brain have been damaged, different kind of symptoms may occur, and these affects can cause conditions such as: seizures, learning disabilities and developmental delay. It is very important to understand that the degree of physical disability experienced by a person with CP is not an indication of his/her level of intelligence. Fortunately I have got any associated problems and my fine motor skills are almost normal.

A person with cerebral palsy has to cope with disabilities and handicaps. A disability is a physical loss of function such as being unable to walk, having difficulty with hand control or speech etc. A handicap is the degree to which that disability puts you at a disadvantage in daily life. For instance, someone who is very short-sighted may be considered to have a disability, but she is unlikely to consider this a handicap if she has corrective lenses. A disability may prevent someone with CP from climbing stairs, but this will only be a handicap if the building she wants to enter is not wheelchair accessible.

CP is not a life-threatening condition and, in itself, is no barrier to leading a long and productive life. People with CP enjoy satisfying careers, higher education and social life. Some limitations are unavoidable, but very few people manage to achieve their dreams of becoming olympic athletes, concert pianists or brain surgeons. I have three personal assistants who help me in activities of daily living when it is necessary. They are like foot and hands for me, but not a head. I make all decisions of my life by myself. I´m THE BOSS now! Without this kind of situation; nice personal assistants and a cozy home I could not live a fully independent life with my "partner", Cerebral Palsy. The disability has an important role in my life every single day, but it is not my whole life.