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Centre for Accessibility Services

Cerebral palsy

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is categorized as an unspecified neurodevelopmental disorder. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a non-progressive, but changing condition that affects 1 out of every 500 individuals living in Canada. The development of the brain starts in early pregnancy and continues until about the age of three. Damage to the brain during this time may result in CP. This damage interferes with messages from the brain to the body, and from the body to the brain. The way CP affects each individual will vary widely from individual to individual, depending on where the brain was damaged. Any damage to the developing brain (birth to around age 3), whether caused by genetic or developmental disorders, injury or disease, may produce CP.

Symptoms & common characteristics

  • Lack of coordination
  • Spasticity
  • Muscle tightness or spasm
  • Involuntary movement
  • Different walking patterns
  • Speech impairment
  • Difficulty with gross & fine motor skills
  • Abnormal perception & sensation

Centre for Accessibility support for cerebral palsy may include

  • Assistive technology
  • Preferential seating in the classroom
  • Alternate format materials (texts in PDF/E-Text)
  • In class attendants
  • Exam supports; extended time, a separate setting, the use of a computer, adaptive technology, a scribe and/or reader


  • Cerebral palsy is the most common type of childhood disability, affecting around 500,000 people under the age of 18
  • Around 2 or 3 children for every 1,000 babies born develop cerebral palsy
  • 1 out of every 400 individuals in Canada are diagnosed with cerebral palsy and it is the most common physical disability in children
  • Spastic cerebral palsy remains the most common type of the disorder, affecting close to 61% of all people with cerebral palsy



Cerebral Palsy Guidance

Cerebral Palsy Association of BC

How to support a student with cerebral palsy

  • Provide a detailed syllabus with clear identifiers of your contact information, office hours/drop-in hours, course objectives, deadlines for assignments/projects, and exam dates.
  • Identify clear office hour information and drop-in hour information.
  • Arrange to meet with the student to discuss specific learning needs, and strategies for success.
  • Allow students to talk to you about their disability, their needs, and related accommodations.

Resources and websites

Cerebral Palsy Association of BC


Mayo Clinic

Tips and tools for students with cerebral palsy

Fatigue: If you are struggling with fatigue you may find it helpful to create a schedule that supports your school and personal needs. If you have more energy at a certain time of day, plan your most difficult tasks for this time. Make sure to include rest periods. Use this time to fully rest, not read or watch TV. Prioritize what needs to be done and let other things go and try not to do it all. Breaking down larger tasks into smaller tasks will give you a chance to rest while you work.

Daily routine: To ensure that you are successful in your time at University, creating a routine that provides you with enough sleep, healthy eating and regular exercise can be beneficial to your overall health. A proper routine will decrease or eliminate the symptoms of your disability and allow you to maintain good mental, emotional and physical health

Support: A strong support system can allow you to lean on those that understand your disability the best. This can include community resources, University resources, friends, family, and pets. Students can bring their support systems to see counsellors, advisors or accessibility advisors through written consent. 

Meet with your instructor: You are your own best advocate so regular communication with your instructors and support team is recommended to ensure that your needs are being met. Instructors provide information about their office hours and ways to communicate at the beginning of the course. Utilize these times to check in with your progress, ask questions and receive feedback.

Assistive technology: There are a variety of devices that can support your ability to learn. Some of these supports include digital recorders, note-taking services, laptops, alternate format textbooks, speech to text/text to speech, etc.  If you require support through technology to assist your learning environment, talk to your accessibility advisor about your challenges so they can help you explore the various supports available.

Physical design: Consider the classroom seating layout to decipher what works best for you especially for videos and demonstrations. If the symptoms of your disability(ies) require you to take breaks or access the washroom ensure you sit near an exit. If you require further assistance with seating, your accessibility advisor can help situate classroom set-up.

Alternate format: Consider your needs around alternate format course materials and place your request immediately following your registration for your classes. Your accessibility advisor can submit your requests immediately to ensure you are prepared for class.

Engagement: Try to attend all your classes, as it can help with engagement.

Resources and websites

Cerebral Palsy Association of BC


Mayo Clinic

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