Cerebral palsy is an inherent movement disorder formed in utero by abnormal brain development, affecting muscle tone and posture throughout life. The condition can manifest in several variations known as spastic, mixed, ataxic, and athetoid. Symptoms may include one or all of the following: involuntary motion, floppy limbs, or exaggerated reflexes. Although there is no cure, treatments include physical therapy, medication, and surgery.
There are hundreds of nonprofit organizations that support raising awareness and finding a cure for cerebral palsy, but the first rule of thumb when choosing one is that not all charities are created equal. If you are interested in volunteering your time or money, it’s a wise idea to do your due diligence first so you can screen out potentially less reliable institutions. One excellent resource for finding a charity is Charity Navigator. As the world’s largest evaluator of charities, this company assigns a rating to each nonprofit based on several factors: transparency with funds, the organization’s financial health, and accountability. Some of the leading groups are as follows.
One of the most active non-profits serving the Cerebral Palsy community in the United States is United Cerebral Palsy (UCP). UCP lives to spread its mission, “A Life Without Limits,” to promote inclusion within communities, not just for people living with cerebral palsy but also for their families and caregivers. The international network of over 100 local and state affiliates was founded in 1949 and worked tirelessly to advocate, support, and educate those inflicted by cerebral palsy, in addition to other disorders, such as down syndrome and autism. Needs are met on a community basis, customized to be as effective as possible for that region. Services include employment training, in-home assistance, family support networks, and transportation assistance, among other help.
UPC was also instrumental between the 1950s and 1970s in creating public awareness of the horrific living conditions of residents who had been institutionalized. They also contributed to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passing, which provides civil rights protections for those living with cognitive, physical, or developmental disabilities. Furthermore, UCP advocates for assistance with registering and casting votes at the polls.
The Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation (CPIRF) is a non-profit group that focuses primarily on funding research and education and advocating for Federal support. This group was founded in 1955 and has contributed over $40 million to discover the cause of cerebral palsy, discover early diagnosis, and prevent secondary musculoskeletal complications that sometimes occur. Their fact sheet findings are shared on their website via an extensive online library.