Specific Terms

(in alphabetical order)

Diplegia - is a term used for referring to a symmetrical paralysis of the body, i.e. both arms or both legs. It is one of the most common symptoms of cerebral palsy, affecting 81% of the population. The Cerebral Palsy handbook [Marion Stanton (2002). The Cerebral Palsy Handbook. 3rd ed. London: Vermilion. 15.] Cerebral palsy is in essence brain damage and the neurological factors never change, however the symptoms can; diplegia can worsen over time so it is vital that those with diplegic cerebral palsy undergo physiotherapy and are consistently included in PE.

Hemiplegia - a paralysis of one half of the body, so the arm, leg and trunk on the same side are affected. Hemiplegia can be spastic or non-spastic (see spasticity below) making it a confusing condition. It can also be confused with hemiparesis which is a distinctive weakness of one side of the body. Hemiplegia is another symptom of cerebral palsy with 3% of the population being affected by spastic hemiplegia. The Cerebral Palsy handbook [Marion Stanton (2002). The Cerebral Palsy Handbook. 3rd ed. London: Vermilion. 15.]

Makaton - a form of sign language created specifically for those with learning difficulties and is particularly helpful with those on the autistic spectrum. Makaton is different from British sign language as it only focuses on key words. The signs also have a tendency to change slightly so it’s important to find modern sources of help and try to keep up to date when learning makaton.

Proprioception - one of the 21 senses of the human body, proprioception is an innate bodily awareness (proprio coming from the Latin phrase for “one’s own”). Close your eyes now and move your arm anywhere you like, you still know where your arm is even without looking at it because the sensory receptors in your muscles feed innate information to your brain constantly. This bodily awareness is incredibly important in physical exercise as it helps one fine tune the communication between the brain and the body, improving physical techniques.

Scoliosis - a postural deviation of the spine away from the midline of the body, resulting in an unusual S shaped spine. This deviation can cause and be the result of excess muscle tone on one side of the body and is often found within the cerebral palsy populations. This can in turn cause difficulty using one side of the body and trouble with walking.

Spasticity - refers to muscular stiffness in a specific skeletal muscle group. It comes from the Greek word meaning “pulling” as unusual muscle tone occurs for neurological reasons, like those in central nervous system disorders such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.

Vestibular System - the vestibular system uses a synergistic network of sensory organs and liquid in the ears and nerves that link the ears with the eyes to control our equilibrioception. This is our sense of bodily position agains the force of gravity, primarily balance but more than that. The sense is predominantly controlled by otoliths (ear stones) which are contained loosely in a gel-like substance in the ear so that they respond to the force of gravity. This is so they can move around the ear and brush against tiny sensory hairs to help our vestibular system detect when were moving in a certain direction. An example of the this action is when you’re in a lift - even though you can’t see yourself moving up and down you can feel the direction of movement because of the otoliths moving in your ears against gravity. Another interesting example of the vestibular system in use is seasickness; there is no such thing as seasickness, it is in fact motion sickness. The way your eyes perceive the horizon is in contrast with the motion you detect from the otoliths in your ears, so your vestibular system becomes very disorientated and causes motion sickness. If anyone believes they suffer from “seasickness” so badly that they only need smell the sea air, this is a simple psychosomatic reaction of the association they have made between the sea and the motion sickness they have felt in the past. If nobody has suffered seasickness before they will never tell you that they only need to smell sea air before they’re sick. A method to prevent seasickness from happening while you’re at sea is to simply close your eyes. Depending on the choppiness of the sea this may not work effectively, but it is a simple way of dulling the present use of your vestibular system.

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