The Quirks of My Cerebral Palsy

As a person with cerebral palsy (CP), I physically struggle with certain activities because of the way the neurological connection between my brain and my body is severed. But instead of focusing on my main symptoms, I would like to spend some time to discuss some of the quirks or distinct behaviors that you may see me do as a result of my CP. Examples of these quirks include sliding or jumping in my wheelchair when I am excited, my startle reflex, and tilting my head to either direction while I am watching TV. Many people with CP experience these behaviors, and I feel that it is important to share them so that able-bodied people have a better understanding of them and can better support those of us living with CP.

The author walking her horse

Startle Reflex

The first quirk I want to talk about is my startle reflex. The startle reflex is a primitive reflex that was retained from when I was an infant for the purpose of survival and protection. The medical name for the startle reflex is the Moro Reflex. As a result, I will scare at just about anything if it catches me by surprise or is really loud (drums being played, motorcycles whirring by, etc.). I may even jump if you are just saying hello and it catches me off guard.

I manage this reflex as best as I can in my daily life by covering my ears if I feel a noise is going to be too loud, or avoiding situations that are beyond my noise tolerance levels. Please do not scare me on purpose; my muscles may spasm and I may scream at you or hit you on accident. It's not fun being scared all the time and it can sometimes be painful if I am scared enough. The reflex has gotten a little bit better over the years, but it is still frustrating to deal with.

Jumping & Sliding

The next main quirk I experience is the way I jump or slide out of my chair when I am excited or talking with others. After 22 years of living with CP, I know that I tend to do a lot of things with my whole body because of the high amount of tone that I have. I manage this by adjusting myself whenever I slide, or having a friend help me so I can sit up faster. Sometimes, my friends and I will even use the leg straps on my wheelchair to strap me in before I start talking in attempt to prevent the sliding or jumping. If we're on FaceTime and you suddenly only see my forehead on camera, don't worry! I just need to adjust myself and you'll see my face in a few minutes.

Head Positioning & Hyperhidrosis

The last two main quirks that I have are forgetting about my head position while I'm watching TV or a movie, and hyperhydrosis (meaning my hands and feet sweat a lot). When I'm watching something, I tend to be so focused on what's going on in the movie or show that I forget about that my body is doing. I can correct my position when I realize what I'm doing or by verbal cues from friends or family. I experience hyperhidrosis daily and have to wipe my hands and the things I touch constantly. Supposedly Botox may be a way to treat this condition, but I have not had success with Botox in the past and do not wish to try it.

There are more quirks I experience than these, but this article would be too long if I recounted each one! I hope this was helpful for everyone to learn more about cerebral palsy, and I hope you have a good day.

About the Author

Bryanna Tanase

I am a 21-year-old college student and avid paraequestrian living with cerebral palsy. Horses are my passion and motivation for everything that I do. I hope to make it to the Paralympics one day and plan to use my experience with horses to help and inspire others.

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Date: 11/17/2020 12:00:00 AM

Ashton T
Thank you for sharing this! We have a baby who was diagnosed with CP, and this really helps us understand how he may feel with some things. I saw a post about the startle reflex and CP elsewhere and I wanted to know more so I googled it. Your post came up and it was very enlightening. 🤍
7/4/2023 5:46:38 PM

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