Cerebral palsy for teenagers and young adults

Young people with cerebral palsy (CP) told us that they would find it useful to have information about CP for young people, because they were tired of having to explain themselves all the time.

Cerebral palsy facts

  • In the UK, about 150 children are diagnosed with CP every month.
  • People with CP have it all their lives.
  • CP is caused by an injury to the brain. The brain injury does not get worse, but the effects may increase with age.

Cerebral palsy affects people differently

"It’s hard to write and draw as I have difficulty controlling my hands.” Eoin

"Noisy places make thinking harder.” Leo

"My speech can be difficult to understand because the muscles around my throat are affected. But I have plenty to say!" Jabe

"I use a wheelchair when I have to go further, but this keeps me independent just like my friends." Jhon

CP can affect people in a variety of ways:

Your brain

Injury to the brain normally occurs while it is developing, from before birth right up to age 5. When the brain is damaged, the messages it sends to different parts of the body get jumbled up or lost. This can affect movement, learning, speaking and every part of the way the body works.

Your body

Some people may use a wheelchair or other equipment to help them move around. CP can make it difficult to judge where steps and spaces start and finish. People can also be more emotional and panicky or find it difficult to switch off and relax.

Your muscles

The muscles have to work harder, so people may get tired more easily. Pain and spasms in people's muscles may disturb their sleep. It can also make speaking, chewing and swallowing difficult. Some people may dribble or need food pureed.

Swallowing difficulties


Talking can be difficult, because muscles in the throat can be affected. Some people use a communication aid to help them speak. This means they may need more time to respond. If you do not understand, it's OK to ask someone to repeat what they are saying.


Around a third of people with CP find things difficult to understand. It can make it harder for sensory information, like light or sound, to get to the brain, and it can make abstract ideas like letters and numbers trickier.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 19/06/2023

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