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What is hemiplegia?

Childhood hemiplegia is a condition affecting one side of the child's body ('hemi' means 'half' in Greek). We talk about a right or left hemiplegia, depending on the side affected. It is caused by damage to some part of the brain, which may happen before, during or soon after birth, when it is known as congenital hemiplegia, or later, in which case it is called acquired hemiplegia.

What are the main effects?

The most obvious result of childhood hemiplegia is a weakness or stiffness and lack of control in the affected side of the body. The child may have little use of one hand, may limp or have poor balance. It is difficult to generalise further: hemiplegia affects each child differently. The physical weakness may be very obvious, or so slight that it only shows when he or she is attempting specific physical activities.

Additional difficulties

Some children with hemiplegia have additional medical problems such as speech difficulties, visual defects or epilepsy. (The two national organisations for people with epilepsy, Epilepsy Action and NSE, produce information leaflets.) Many others have less obvious additional difficulties, such as perceptual problems, specific learning difficulties, or emotional and behavioural problems, which will affect their school lives and indeed be more frustrating and disabling than their physical problems.

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