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Cerebral palsy is the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and co-ordination, caused by a problem with the brain that occurs before, during or soon after birth.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy

The symptoms of cerebral palsy aren’t usually obvious just after a baby is born. They normally become noticeable during the first two or three years of a child’s life.

Symptoms can include:

  • delays in reaching development milestones – for example, not sitting by eight months or not walking by 18 months
  • seeming too stiff or too floppy
  • weak arms or legs
  • fidgety, jerky or clumsy movements
  • random, uncontrolled movements
  • walking on tip-toes
  • a range of other problems – such as swallowing difficulties, speaking problems, vision problems and learning disabilities

The severity of symptoms can vary significantly. Some people only have minor problems, while others may be severely disabled.

Causes of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy can occur if a baby’s brain doesn’t develop normally while in the womb, or is damaged during or soon after birth.

Causes of cerebral palsy include:

  • bleeding in the baby’s brain or reduced blood and oxygen supply to their brain
  • an infection caught by the mother during pregnancy
  • the brain temporarily not getting enough oxygen (asphyxiation) during a difficult birth
  • meningitis
  • a serious head injury

But in many cases, the exact cause isn’t clear.

Treatments for cerebral palsy

There’s currently no cure for cerebral palsy, but treatments are available to help people with the condition have a normal and independent a life as possible.

Treatments include:

  • physiotherapy – techniques such as exercise and stretching to help maintain physical ability and hopefully improve movement problems
  • speech therapy to help with speech and communication, and swallowing difficulties
  • occupational therapy – where a therapist identifies problems that you or your child have carrying out everyday tasks, and suggests ways to make these easier
  • medication for muscle stiffness and other difficulties
  • in some cases, surgery to treat movement or growth problems

Outlook for cerebral palsy

  • life expectancy is usually unaffected, but can be reduced in severe cases
  • the condition may limit your child’s activities and independence, although many people go on to have full, independent lives
  • many children go to a mainstream school, but some may have special educational needs and benefit from attending a special school
  • the original problem with the brain doesn’t get worse over time, but the condition can put a lot of strain on the body and cause problems such as painful joints in later life
  • the daily challenges of living with cerebral palsy can be difficult to cope with, which can lead to problems such as depression in some people

There are four main types of cerebral palsy:

  • spastic cerebral palsy – the muscles are stiff and tight (especially when trying to move them quickly), making it difficult to move and reducing the range of movement that’s possible
  • dyskinetic cerebral palsy – the muscles switch between stiffness and floppiness, causing random, uncontrolled body movements or spasms
  • ataxic cerebral palsy – when a person has balance and co-ordination problems, resulting in shaky or clumsy movements and sometimes tremors
  • mixed cerebral palsy – when a person has symptoms of more than one of the types mentioned above
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Induction Week – Exposure – Devonport

As part of the induction week of university, I took part in the induction project, “Exposure” and was part of the group who investigated Devonport. At first I was disappointed by this choice, but mainly because I knew it would require a lot of walking which isn’t my favourite thing to do. However, over the course of the week I became increasingly fond of the sites in Devonport and the stretch of history that has built it into what it is.IMG_1970 - Copy (2)IMG_1974 - Copy (2)IMG_1977 - Copy (2)

Devonport has a long history with war and military which is evident as you walk around. There are lots of dull, grey tones, especially down near the docks with a lot of barbed wire, giving a physical indication to the naval and mIMG_1979 - Copy (2)ilitary links that it has. This is evident in one of the images I made, where a children’s park is encased by a grey brick wall, making something so innocent look serious. IMG_1985 - Copy (2)I also noticed the signs around Devonport, things like NO BALL GAMES for example. Although this probably wasn’t intentional, it made me think of the rules and commands that members of the military would face and the sense of order they would follow. There is also the outdoor swimming pool which almost looks abandoned but brings a bit of colour to the yet still dull grey walls surrounding it.IMG_1981 - Copy (2)

Devonport was largely destroyed during the war and still faces terror today with a recent fire which destroyed many homes. When walking around Devonport you see a lot of building work and reconstruction which shows the development of Devonport. IMG_1968 - Copy (2) IMG_1969 - Copy (2) IMG_1971 - Copy (2)The newer parts of Devonport are very obvious in comparison to the more original parts, which gives it a slight inconsistent feel as nothing matches. The modern buildings are almost futuristic and structured compared to the standard brick houses that stand from years ago. It’s quite an odd sight as you don’t feel like you’re walking around the same place.IMG_2065 - Copy (2) IMG_2018 - Copy (2) IMG_2005 - Copy (2)

The scenery in Devonport was divine, especially down by the sea as you can see for miles, giving beautiful landscapes. The best place for these spectacular views was from the top of guild hall. I struggled up what felt like 100 stairs to the top, but it was well worth it for the views were amazing and I was able to capture new perspective of Plymouth. When I was told stories and descriptions about Devonport, I was expecting a downbeat place with little aesthetic beauty, but it proved me wrong. There was very little contact with citizens of Devonport which was strange as it was a sunny day; it made it feel like a ghost town.IMG_2054 - Copy (2)

The experience as a whole was good for me as it gave me a chance to meet older people that I will now feel comfortable to speak to and ask for advice throughout my learning experience, something that I sometimes struggle with. It was an opportunity to see some initial work by others and be made to work in a team, something that will be essential if I work in industry in the future. It also gave me a chance to explore and be active – as someone not from Plymouth it was nice to see the areas of which I hadn’t even thought to visit.

Improvements for the week? Well, I think the ideas and intentions of the week are good and have benefits for everyone, however the group I was in was fairly unorganised and faced a few challenges along the way which at times created an awkward atmosphere. This is only a trivial thing based on the personal experience I had. Regardless of this, I feel the older students of the group helped to hold things together and created a great final exhibition for the week.IMG_2019 - Copy (2)

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