While cerebral palsy may or may not directly affect someone’s cognition, that doesn’t mean it can’t affect their mental health.

Cerebral palsy is a brain condition that a doctor typically diagnoses within the first few years of a child’s life. It causes difficulty controlling muscles and motions, and symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Some people with cerebral palsy also experience cognitive symptoms, such as difficulty with focus, memory, and learning. Treatment from professionals, such as speech and occupational therapists, can help manage these symptoms.

Cerebral palsy can sometimes affect cognitive development.

Not all children with cerebral palsy experience cognition effects, but the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation reports that about 50% of children with cerebral palsy do. Effects can range from mild to severe. They can include behavioral, communication, sensory, attention, and memory difficulties.

Cerebral palsy has links to a range of cognitive symptoms. However, not all children with cerebral palsy will experience cognitive symptoms, and not all children with cognitive symptoms will have the same symptoms.

Common symptoms can include:

  • delayed language, speech, and communication development
  • shortened attention span
  • reduced memory span
  • low tolerance for social interactions
  • delayed emotional developments
  • outbursts of anger, panic, or other strong emotions
  • difficulty reading sensory environmental signals
  • difficulty relaxing or adjusting to environments
  • difficulty learning to read, count, or process information
  • difficulty recognizing and interpreting noises

Does cerebral palsy affect someone’s memory?

Cerebral palsy can sometimes affect memory. Not everyone with cerebral palsy experiences memory difficulties. However, some people do experience this as a cognitive symptom.

People with cerebral palsy can have difficulties with both short and long-term memories. They might have difficulty remembering new information and learning. They might also have difficulty recalling past events.

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Cerebral palsy isn’t progressive. This means it doesn’t get worse with time. However, it’s also difficult to predict how a person with cerebral palsy will develop as they age or how it can affect a person as they age.

Treatment can help lessen the cognitive effects of cerebral palsy. Early treatments can increase childhood and adult cognitive abilities. Exact treatments depend on factors such as the severity of symptoms. A treatment team will typically work together to plan and carry out treatment.

Common treatments include:

Professionals such as speech, occupational, and behavioral therapists often play key roles in treating cognitive symptoms. Speech therapists can improve communication skills and teach new communication strategies. Occupational therapists can teach self-care skills to increase independence. Behavioral therapists can help teach new ways to respond to challenges and frustrations.

Healthcare professionals can work with a child’s school to set up learning plans and goals that are appropriate for their cognitive abilities. The exact level of assistance and planning a child will need at school depends on their specific needs.

Similarly, members of a treatment team can help adults with cerebral palsy get any needed cognitive accommodations at a job.

Cerebral palsy itself doesn’t progress or cause increasing cognitive effects with age. Additionally, studies haven’t found any links between adult cerebral palsy and the early onset of degenerative brain conditions such as dementia.

However, there is a link between adult cerebral palsy and conditions such as depression and anxiety, and these conditions can affect cognition. This means that although cerebral doesn’t directly affect cognition as you age or lead to degenerative conditions, adults with cerebral palsy are still at risk of new cognitive effects.

For instance, depression can make it difficult to focus and remember information. This worsens these symptoms for a person with cerebral palsy or can even cause them for the first time. Treatments such as therapy and medication can often help. You can read more about treating depression here.

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Cerebral palsy doesn’t always cause people to develop cognitive side effects. When it does, they can include memory, attention span, communication, and learning difficulties.

Treatment, including speech, occupational, physical, and behavioral therapy, can help expand abilities. Cerebral palsy isn’t progressive, but it can cause mental health concerns, such as depression, in adults that can worsen cognition.