Because cerebral palsy influences the way children develop, it is known as a developmental disability. In the United States today, more people have cerebral palsy than any other developmental disability, including Down syndrome, epilepsy, and autism. Nearly two children out of every thousand born in this country have some type of cerebral palsy. Studies have shown that at least 5,000 infants and toddlers and 1,200–1,500 preschoolers are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year. In all, approximately 500,000 people in this country have some degree of cerebral palsy. There is not an American system for monitoring cerebral palsy’s occurrence. Therefore it is not known whether the incidence of cerebral palsy is increasing, declining, or staying the same. However, statistics and studies have shown that the use of the electronic fetal heart rate monitor during labor and delivery has not decreased the rate of cerebral palsy, primarily because of the mistakes made by doctors and nurses during the birthing process.
Although children with very mild cerebral palsy occasionally recover by the time they are school-aged, cerebral palsy is usually a lifelong disability. In most cases, the movement and other problems associated with the disability will affect to varying degrees what a child is able to learn and do throughout life.