Actor with cerebral palsy

Celebrities with Connections to Cerebral Palsy

Q: What do Alanis Morissette, David Hasselhoff, Oprah, Regis Philbin, Cynthia Nixon, and Robin Roberts all have in common? A: Yes, it’s true that they’re all celebrities, but what’s more is they’re all celebrities who have made donations to the United Cerebral Palsy charity.

It is crucial to raise public awareness of Cerebral Palsy for many reasons, including to fund research efforts and to help educate the population at large. Effective publicity may also help correct any unfair negativity surrounding Cerebral Palsy with a forward-looking optimism. And who’s better at maintaining a presence in the public eye than celebrities? From time to time, we are all transfixed with the lives of movie stars, and it’s reassuring to know that so many of them are beyond mere glitz and glamor. What many people might not realize is that several of these stars have close connections with Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities. By hearing about a disability like Cerebral Palsy from celebrities, it helps to normalize the condition and communicate that they, too, can be affected in one way or another by disability.

WNBA basketball star Elena Delle Donne, who played most recently for Team USA in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, traces her inspiration to her oldest sister, Lizzie, who is blind, deaf, and has autism and Cerebral Palsy. Lizzie is Delle Donne’s role model, and Delle Donne credits her determination in life to have fueled her own. Delle Donne has a tattoo of angel wings in honor of Lizzie to remind herself to keep perspective when struggling with a challenge, because whatever that challenge may be, it pales in comparison to those her sister Lizzie faces. The angel wings represent Lizzie’s challenges, which are the wellspring of Delle Donne’s inspiration – inspiration that has manifested itself in the 2016 Olympic Games no less.

Actress Laura San Giacomo, whose son Mason has Cerebral Palsy, uses her public platform to empower other families by challenging the negative connotations and common emphases on what those with Cerebral Palsy may not be able to do. It turns out Mason has been able to prove doctors wrong again and again by doing things they said he’d never be able to do, like play basketball. While Giacomo is perhaps best known on the big screen in movies like Pretty Woman and Checking Out, and in television shows like Miami Vice, Just Shoot Me!, and Saving Grace, she uses her limelight to prompt people to change their conception about Cerebral Palsy from one steeped in limitation to one of rising up to challenges.

Television actress Susan Lucci’s Grandson, Brendan, also has Cerebral Palsy. Lucci, appearing in television shows like All My Children, Deadly Affairs, and Devious Maids, is no stranger to stardom, nor is she shy about telling the world about her seven-year-old grandson’s achievements. After a lower spinal cord surgery, Brendan and his family hoped walking without an uneven gait might be possible. At an event, Lucci, Brendan, and Brendan’s mother all congregated on the famed red-carpet so that Brendan could take some of his first few steps with his new and improved stride. Events like these really showcase the pride that families have for their children, and remind the public that people should not be reduced to their diagnoses, but rather defined by their perseverance and character. We can all be sure that Brendan’s walk down the red-carpet, flanked by Lucci and his mother, will reel hope and warmth to other families.

R.J. Mitte, famous for playing Walt Jr. in the hit television series Breaking Bad, is very active in using his celebrity to stress the importance of viewing disabilities the right way. Mitte’s character Walt Jr. has Cerebral Palsy, motivating his father Walter White, played by actor Bryan Cranston, to attempt to secure funds for him amid an inadequate healthcare system. Mitte himself actually has Cerebral Palsy, and actively campaigns for various issues associated with disability, including speaking out against bullying.

In the 2016 film Who’s Driving Doug, Mitte plays a young man with muscular dystrophy. But Mitte is quick to point out that each disability comes with unique challenges; just because Mitte has Cerebral Palsy does not mean that he understands what it’s like to have some other disability, like muscular dystrophy. The public can sometimes fall victim to this confusion, hence his outspokenness on the topic. Since Mitte enjoys a large following and popularity, his efforts permeate not only the Hollywood scene, but are felt in the homes of families with challenges everywhere.

As Elena Delle Donne, Lauren San Giacomo, Susan Lucci, and R.J. Mitte exemplify, celebrities can harness their star power to spotlight those with Cerebral Palsy, advocate for Cerebral Palsy awareness, and challenge the public to view individuals who have it in a positive light instead of one darkened with limitations. The fact that these celebrities and others are able to do what they do is an exciting indication that progress is underway to normalize disabilities and cement into public consciousness that people are never defined by them. Since celebrities are so influential in society, especially to the youth, it is all the more important that they use their fame to benefit those with disabilities like Cerebral Palsy. And what a great thing it is to know so many are doing just that.

Filming a lead role in a TV show while you’re still at drama school is a breakthrough for any young actor.

For 21-year-old Bridie McKim, there’s an added element — in her first professional acting job, Bridie was able to play one of the first characters with a disability ever given a lead role on Australian screens.

Bridie, like her character Sabine, has mild cerebral palsy.

She plays the character in a new soap opera, The Heights, set around the lives, scandals and romances of a housing commission and the people who work and live in the surrounding neighbourhood.

Ahead of the premiere of the new ABC TV series, Bridie took the time to talk with ABC Life about her journey, her character and the representation of disability in TV and film.

How did you get started in acting?

McKim’s character, Sabine, has just moved to the local public school and makes a strong first impression with kids, who think she’ll be a soft touch.(Supplied: ABC TV, Bohdan Warchomij)

Bridie: I was just a drama nerd living in the suburbs of Brisbane. I don’t think I ever let myself actually say I wanted to act as a career until I auditioned for NIDA and got in.

I didn’t know if anyone would ever take me seriously, or anyone would ever give me an opportunity.

When I was 18, just before I auditioned for drama school, I was pretty lucky. I got a part in a short film made by Sofya Gollan, who’s a filmmaker with disability, she’s deaf.

I remember working on that and just going, “My god, if I can do this for the rest of my life, I will be one happy chap.”

But I asked her, “How do I actually make a career out of this? How do I give this a go?”

And she said, “Well, people need to take you seriously, and it’s going to be hard for you to be taken seriously because there’s not a lot of disabled actors. So you need to go to drama school and get your foot in the door and get proper training.”

So that’s what I did and I graduated from NIDA (the National Institute of Dramatic Art) three months ago.

As an actor, is it a challenge to find characters with disability that have depth and that you want to play?

Well, for starters there definitely needs to be more roles.

I still feel very lucky to be that person, but then there definitely needs to be more roles for disabled people because, you know, almost 20 per cent of our population is disabled, and I’m pretty sure only about 4 per cent of the characters on our screens are disabled. Those figures don’t really match up, in my opinion.

The Brisbane native moved to Sydney for drama school and has only just graduated.(Supplied: ABC TV, Bohdan Warchomij)

But also what’s important to me is, I don’t necessarily always want to play the disabled person because, you know, that’s part of my identity, but it’s not my whole identity; it’s not all that I am.

I’m an actor and I would love to act as other people with different experiences, so I also would love to be given the opportunity to play characters who aren’t overtly disabled.

What did you enjoy about playing Sabine and what did it allow you to do that was special?

What I found really exciting about Sabine is just that she is such a sassy queen, and she’s just so much cooler than I ever was and ever will be.

I’m a bit of a chronic people-pleaser, so I don’t think I was ever bold enough to be as out there as Sabine. She is everything I would have loved to have been at 16.

To have a character that always has a good comeback and always goes out and takes life by the horns is so fun, but to do it with a disabled character is great.

It was also fantastic to work with Ros Hammond to who is absolutely amazing and plays Sabine’s mum, Claudia, who is also a badarse character. She’s a doctor and a single mum.

Claudia and Sabine are really trying to sort out the dynamic that is developing between them now. They have always been really close, and they had always had a really fantastic relationship. And now that Sabine is really trying to figure out who she is and also get a bit of independence to her life, it’s really quite confronting for Claudia.

It doesn’t shy away from Sabine’s sex life. How was that to play? And how does it compare to characters with disability that you’ve seen before?

But sexuality is so important to anybody and especially people with disabilities, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a disabled character on screen that overtly has a sex life.

You know, you’re a human being and of course you have a sex life.

So it was pretty amazing to play a character who is so open with their sexuality and wants to explore that side of themselves. I felt really lucky to be a part of that because I feel like it needs to be done more and I’m so glad it happened with Sabine.

What are you excited for people to see in The Heights?

We have a phenomenal crew and such an incredible ensemble cast.

I just think of how many people were part of making the show, and how passionate everyone was and how they really put all of themselves into the show.

A lot of people aren’t exposed to disability or even people with a disability sometimes don’t know other disabled people. So I’m really curious to see how people respond to a character who is disabled, but is also so coloured by every other part of her life and isn’t a disabled stereotype.

The Heights premieres on ABC TV on Fridays and the first 16 episodes will are available to stream on iview.

When I was 14, I got a part in the drama after a teaching assistant suggested I audition. It was a dream come true and I enjoyed five years of bliss. Not only did I get to miss lots of school but I was also surrounded by people who accepted me as I was.

But the first time I saw myself on screen, I was shocked. It may surprise people to know that a lot of disabled people don’t actually feel disabled at all – so when I saw myself as others see me, reality hit me hard. I was looking at a wobbly girl who walked and talked differently.

The camera had stripped away all my self-delusion. I stopped watching myself whenever it was on. As the years passed, I devised elaborate ways to conceal my disability. I’d go to parties and not drink because I didn’t want to ask for a straw.

I’d stop in my tracks if someone was walking towards me, hoping they’d think I was ‘normal’ (though there’s nothing normal about a girl suddenly standing still and staring intently at her feet). I became riddled by paranoia. I’d hear a running commentary in my head every time I left the house, telling me exactly what people thought of me – how rubbish I was at walking or how glad they were that they weren’t me.

When I was 19, things came to a head and I had a panic attack, convinced I was about to die. It was then that I poured out all my feelings to my parents. With their enduring love and patience, they helped me see that brain damage was not something to be brushed under the carpet. It took time, but I eventually changed the way I thought about it.

I decided to like myself as I was and to see positives in my wobbliness. It got me out of doing the dishes and housework, after all!

Discovering comedy also helped me change. I’d spent years feeling that the only way to be accepted was to hide my differences. But on stage, I found that if I was open and relaxed about who I was, acceptance naturally followed. It felt incredibly empowering.

What also drives my comedy – and is a reason behind writing my new book – is that my ideas might have a positive impact on other people. That’s a really thrilling prospect.

Disability isn’t going away – it’s always going to exist. So I’d like to see a world where it’s accepted and where people aren’t defined by what they can’t do, but what they can.”

Cerebral palsy: the facts

– CP affects one in every 400 to 500 babies in the UK. It is usually caused by lack of oxygen at birth- CP can result in muscle stiffness, spasms and problems with balance, walking and speech.
– Treatments include physical and speech therapy. Some medications can help to relax stiff muscles.

Francesca’s book what the **** is Normal?! is £12.99 from the

Cerebral palsy is one of the most common motor disability disorders in the world. It ranges in severity from severe motor dysfunction to light spastic movements. Regardless of the severity of the disorder, many children with cerebral palsy go on to have successful lives. These following celebrities with cerebral palsy aren’t willing to let their disorder slow them down.

Josh Blue

(Photo by Bryce Boyer, Comedy Work)

Josh Blue is a stand-up comedian well-known for being voted the Last Comic Standing on NBC’s fourth season of its reality show, Last Comic Standing. Blue uses self-deprecating humor about his disorder and focuses the majority of his jokes on the daily challenges of living with cerebral palsy.

Blue was diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy at birth, and the disorder affects the movement in one of his arms. Regardless, Blue stated that although he has cerebral palsy, he felt blessed while growing up.

“Even growing up I knew that more or less my condition is a really small issue in terms of the rest of the planet. I’ve enjoyed food on my table and shelter for my entire life, and a lot of people don’t have those things. My Cerebral Palsy is a minuscule issue for most of the planet.”

Yet, Blue still remembers an incident during childhood when he was cut from a soccer team due to his disorder. It would be one of the reasons that he would go on to become a comedian. He began to focus on writing and wry sense of humor, which not only helped him cope, but prepared him for his future in the entertainment business.

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images)

RJ Mitte is an actor best known for his role as Walter White Jr. on the AMC television show Breaking Bad. Mitte’s talent and interest in entertainment prompted him to move to Hollywood and begin training with a personal talent manager. Mitte developed brain damage at birth after his mother delivered him via C-section. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was three.

In addition to Breaking Bad, Mitte appeared in the Disney show Hannah Montana and the horror film, House of Last Things. He’s the winner of the 2014 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series award, from the Screen Actors Guild Awards. He also won the 2014 Rising Star award, for the Gasparilla International Film Festival.

Mitte has spent his spare time as an activist for cerebral palsy. Not only is he a a celebrity ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP, but he also appeared in the March, 2015 issue of Neurology Now.

Geri Jewell

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Geri Jewell is an actress and comedian with an impressive number of roles behind her belt. From 1980 to 1984, she starred as Geri Tyler on the popular show, The Fact of Life. Her role in the show marked the first time a person with a disability obtained a regular, recurring role on a prime time television series, and she was the first person with cerebral palsy to be featured on a television show.

Jewell’s first gig was a comedian act in 1978 at The Comedy Store. She also appeared in the HBO series Deadwood, from 2004-2006, as Jewel, and in 2004, had a recurring role as Rose on The Young and the Restless. However, it was her work on The Facts of Life that made the biggest impact of career. Jewell recalled,

“I didn’t know the significance my appearance on television has until later. It would take me a long time to understand it. But after I first appeared on , I received thousands of fan letters. I received letters that said, ‘You changed my life.’” It took a while for me to understand that.”

Jewell was born prematurely and with a brain injury that stemmed from a car accident her mother was in while still pregnant with her. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy later on, and remembered that although she was teased for being different, she began making kids laugh at an early age, which helped them feel comfortable around her and understand her disorder.

“I think as a kid I compensated for being different and not being understood. I made people laugh, and it made other people more comfortable. It was a skill I honed from a very early age.”

Written by Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been writing for since 2016. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and holds undergraduate and graduate science degrees. As a freelance writer for over 10 years Mary Ellen has used her academic background to specialize in health and science writing. She is committed to making complex medical topics accessible to those who need it.

Mary Ellen feels honored to use her writing skills to shine a light on individuals and families affected by cerebral palsy, and bring awareness to the community.

Six Famous People with Cerebral Palsy Infographic

Jason’s View

16 Jun 2014

Instead of seeing Cerebral Palsy as a negative, many people in this Cerebral Palsy infographic used their disability as a way to achieve great things.

Cerebral Palsy is a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking. Instead of seeing it as a limitation, these six saw as merely another challenge and overcame the struggle to become some of the best minds in their field. Josh Blue was able to use it as a big base for his hilarious comedy. Dr. Brunstrom is able to understand the condition better than any other neurologist in her field because of her point of view experience.

Each person would probably practice their craft regardless of their disability. But they still chose to see it as a positive and use it as a strength, not a weakness or an excuse.

We all over come struggles. Everyone – whether we have a disability or not.

We are held back because of expectations. A “can’t do anything” attitude comes from outside sources. There are positives and negatives to every situation. It just depends on how you look at it.

Think about when we learn that someone has cancer. it’s usually those that don’t have cancer who are sorry – but those with the cancer persevere. Society tends to apply that “I’m sorry” attitude to people with disabilities so much so that we’ve grown up in a culture that tells people to feel sorry for those who are sick or disabled. We automatically feel sorry for people who are not “normal” or don’t have what we have. When in reality, it just makes ourselves feel a little better about the situation.

We all need help and we all need accommodations in some factor. We are not solely self-sufficient beings.

It’s what we do with our disability, our strengths, and our weaknesses that helps us grow and master our passions and make a difference in the world.

Famous Celebrities with Cerebral Palsy

Celebrities Living with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder that causes disability in human development. CP affects the area of the brain for movement and occurs in around two out of every 1000 births. With no known cure, CP can be a burden on people with the disorder, but most live very happy, full lives.

Today, we’d like to mention just a FEW of the many famous people who have triumphed beyond cerebral palsy and become well-known celebrities and inspirations.

RJ Mitte

  • Actors with CP have been more popular than ever, and even star in some of the biggest shows in television. RJ Mitte was best known for his role as Walter White Jr. on the hit AMC television series, Breaking Bad. Mitte suffers from a mild case of cerebral palsy, and his talent manager has stated that his diligence and attitude has helped him overcome his challenges and helped him star in one of the biggest TV shows of the past couple years. He is now slated to star in the ABC Family show “Switched at Birth.”

Zach Anner

  • Zach Anner is a Texas-based stand-up comic with CP, and gained world-wide attention and fame with the submission of a video to Oprah Winfrey’s “Search for the Next TV Star” competition. Anner would go on to win the competition, $100,000 prize money, a Chevrolet Equinox and his own television show on Oprah’s channel OWN called “Rollin’ With Zach”, a wheelchair travel show.

Josh Blue

  • Josh Blue is another stand-up comic who won fame when he won the NBC reality show “Last Comic Standing” in 2006. Centering his humor around his cerebral palsy and living with disabilities, Blue has learned to use his illness to bring humor on to the stage while having a positive attitude about it.

Bonner Paddock

  • Bonner Paddock is a famous American athlete born with cerebral palsy, but was not accurately diagnosed until the age of 11. Paddock was told by doctors that he might not make it to his 20th birthday, but that did not stop him from becoming the first person with CP to reach the summit of the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro, unassisted. This feat would be documented in the film Beyond Limits, which was narrated by Michael Clarke Duncan in 2009.

Jerry Traylor

  • Another athlete, Jerry Traylor, is the only person to jog across America on crutches. At the age of 6, Traylor underwent 14 corrective surgeries for his CP, and spent a year in the hospital recuperating. Also participating in running of 35 marathons, parachuting, and climbing to the top of Pike’s Peak, Traylor speaks of having an unbelievable sense of freedom, and tells his story around the world as a motivational speaker.

These courageous individuals have gone on to be inspirations to many. The bold persistence to reach their goal proves that nothing can hold someone determined back from reaching their dreams. Cerebral palsy may alter their life physically, but the motivation in their hearts drives them to obtain their goals, and become visionaries to us all.

In Honor of Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, Here Are Five Famous People Who Just Happen to Have Cerebral Palsy

Most people see someone with cerebral palsy and automatically assume they have an intellectual disability. We’d like to change that perception.

Did you know that most people with cerebral palsy have an IQ that is equal to or greater than the average person? Read on to learn more about cerebral palsy and those people who have soared in life with it.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy affects how the body moves and muscles work. More specifically, it’s a group of movement disorders that is permanent.

Cerebral Palsy affects movement in the arms, legs and overall body. For example, people with cerebral palsy may appear to be stiff or move jaggedly and sporadically. Given the fact there are different types of cerebral palsy and variations of each, no two people have the condition in the same way.

Most importantly: Only a very small number of people with cerebral palsy have intellectual or mental challenges. In short, the vast majority only have physical symptoms.

Five Famous and Accomplished People Who Just Happen to Have Cerebral Palsy

In honor of Cerebral Palsy Month, we’re highlighting five famous and accomplished people who just happen to have cerebral palsy.

RJ Mitte

RJ Mitte has a ton of credentials to his name. Specifically, he’s an actor (you may have seen him play Walter “Flynn” White Jr. on the hit AMC tv series Breaking Bad). In addition to acting, he’s also a producer, fashion model and activist.

Watch the clip below to hear Mitte explain how he’s overcome the disease — yet not felt like he needs to be fixed or cured.

Abbey Nicole Curran

Abbey Nicole Curran was the first Miss USA contestant with a disability. After her history-making involvement in the 2008 Miss USA pageant (representing Iowa), Curran has gone on to create a pageant for young girls with disabilities, called Miss You Can Do It.

Zach Anner

Zach Anner became world famous after winning his own TV show on the OWN network. Since Rollin’ With Zach, his wheelchair travel show, he’s guest starred on the sitcom Speechless, written a book and garnered a huge following on YouTube.

On his YouTube channel, Anner highlights the challenges of navigating life with cerebral palsy with humor and positivity.

Dan Keplinger

Dan Keplinger is a celebrated artist, represented by the Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York City. Galleries across the nation have shown his paintings.

In addition to painting, he also starred in the Oscar-winning documentary short King Gimp. Keplinger has used his platform to motivate others.

Bonner Paddock

Photo Courtesy of Bonner Paddock via

Bonner Paddock became a famous athlete after being featured in the documentary Beyond Limits. From competing in the Ironman Triathlon to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro summit unassisted, Paddock has defied all perceived physical limitations of a cerebral palsy diagnosis.

Get Involved With Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

Over 700,000 people live with cerebral palsy, making it the most common childhood motor disability. Yet society overall has misconceptions about the disability.

Society often treats people with cerebral palsy as if they have an intellectual disability. We need to change this view — and you can help!

Follow March Is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month on Facebook Page

If you’re on Facebook, follow the March Is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. This page is dedicated to the cause and features inspiring stories and updates.

Wear Your Green and Share a Picture on Social Media

Don’t put away your green now that St. Patrick’s Day is over! Wear green for the rest of the month to show your support for Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month.

Grab your favorite green shirt and post a picture on social media of yourself wearing it. When you post the photo, include a fact about cerebral palsy to help spread awareness.

For example, let your followers know that cerebral palsy doesn’t necessarily mean an intellectual disability. Most often, people with cerebral palsy have an equal or better IQ than the average person.

List of Famous People with Cerebral Palsy, loosely ranked by fame and popularity. Cerebral palsy is the term associated with conditions that cause physical disability in the various areas of body movement. It is a central motor dysfunction that affects muscle tone, posture and movement. Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to an area of the developing brain that occur during pregnancy, childbirth or up to age 3. Therapy, medication and surgery can all be used to treat the symptoms of cerebral palsy.

Who is the most famous person with cerebral palsy? Josh Blue tops our list. Blue is a stand up comedian who has been featured on several TV shows including “Last Comic Standing.” He frequently makes fun of his experiences with cerebral palsy during his act. Blue is also an athlete. He participated in the 2004 U.S. Paralympic soccer team.

“Breaking Bad” actor RJ Mitte has cerebral palsy. Mitte’s character Walter White Jr. also has cerebral palsy and uses crutches to help him walk. Mitte has a mild form of cerebral palsy so he himself does not require the crutches. Many famous people with cerebral palsy have become motivational speakers including Anne McDonald and Geri Jewell.

What do you think of the famous people who don’t let cerebral palsy hold them back? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Famous People With Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a complicated disease with many different symptoms and levels of severity. In some sense, it is as diverse as the individuals who have it.

With that in mind, here is a list of brief biographies of some famous people with cerebral palsy. Their commonality is the refusal to be defined by their disease and their insistence on carving out a meaningful life for themselves despite the obstacles. The list is by no means complete, but it does represent the diversity of the population with cerebral palsy and how they’ve followed their dreams.

Christy Brown (June 5, 1932-September 7, 1981): Born with cerebral palsy, Christy Brown grew up in Dublin, Ireland. With the help of his supportive family and a social worker, he developed an interest in writing and painting, using his left leg and foot to manipulate pens, pencils, and paintbrushes since he couldn’t control any other limbs. He had a successful career and published several very famous, well-regarded books, including My Left Foot, which was made into an Academy Award-winning film staring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Chris Fonseca: A man who has written material for the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, and has his own standup routine, Chris Fonseca is a successful comic who incorporates his cerebral palsy into his routine. As just one example, his nickname is Crazy Legs although he is wheelchair-bound. He has been writing and performing for over 20 years.

Jhamak Ghimire (born July 1980): Nepalese poet and writer Jhamak Ghimire has had cerebral palsy since birth and writes with her left foot. She is not only an accomplished poet but also a columnist for the Kantipur newspaper. Despite having little formal education, she has won Nepal’s top literary prize, the Madan Puraskar, for her recent contributions to Nepalese literature.

Geri Jewell (born September 13, 1956): From her role on The Facts of Life in the 1980s to her recent role on Deadwood, Geri Jewell has built a successful acting career despite her cerebral palsy. She was the first actor with cerebral palsy to have a major role in a TV show, and she continues to act today and has also written her autobiography.

Susie Maroney (born November 15, 1974): An Australian marathon swimmer, Susie Maroney kept her cerebral palsy a secret until 2007. She has won multiple awards for her swimming and has completed such amazing feats as swimming the 122 miles from Mexico to Cuba.

Anne McDonald (January 11, 1961-October 22, 2010): An Australian disability rights activist, Anne McDonald developed severe cerebral palsy as a baby due to an injury sustained at birth. Placed in an institution where she was neglected and mistreated, eventually Anne was able to communicate and free herself. She then began to advocate for improved treatment for all people with disabilities like hers, and she even wrote her autobiography to tell her full story.

RJ Mitte (born August 21, 1992): Roy Frank Mitte III has recently made his name as an actor with his role on Breaking Bad. Both RJ and his character, Walter White Jr., have cerebral palsy, and RJ took the role in part because he saw it as a chance to educate the public about the life of a teen boy with cerebral palsy.

Christopher Nolan (September 6, 1965-February 20, 2009): An Irish poet and author, Christopher Nolan was born with cerebral palsy due to oxygen deprivation. Although he could only type using a pointer attached to his forehead, his prolific life as a writer included his first major publication at age 15 and winning many awards, such as the Whitbread Book Award.

Bonner Paddock: Although he was born with cerebral palsy, Bonner Paddock was misdiagnosed until age 11 due to the mildness of his disability. This has never held him back, however, a fact that is evident when you find out he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro unassisted and participated in the Ironman World Championships. His One Man, One Mission Foundation is currently working to raise money for the creation of learning centers worldwide for children with and without disabilities.

Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer (September 23, 1950 – August 8, 1998): An American disability rights activist, Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer developed cerebral palsy after she had a bad case of encephalitis at 5 weeks old. Subsequently diagnosed as an imbecile, she was institutionalized on and off for most of her teens and lived in deplorable conditions. Once she managed to leave the Belchertown State School in Massachusetts where she had been living, she spent the rest of her life as a disability rights activist, working to expose the injustices of such schools to the greater public.

Early Detection of Cerebral Palsy Using Robots

Cerebral palsy affects muscle tone, movement and motor skills and is usually caused by brain damage occurring before or at birth, or during the first five years of a child’s life. The word cerebral refers to the brain and palsy to a disorder of movement and posture

Cerebral Palsy is one of the most common congenital disorders of childhood. Congenital meaning that it exists at or before birth. It’s estimated that in the US, half a million children are affected. It causes uncontrollable reflexive movements and tightness in the muscles which may affect parts or all of the body. Intellectual disability, seizures and problems with hearing and vision can also be present.

Early diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy is important because this means that infants can get the ongoing care that they need as soon as possible. Cerebral Palsy can be identified by the analysis of certain movements in infants however, this requires extended monitoring by doctors and nurses, combined with sifting through many hours of video footage.

In early infancy, healthy babies display distinct spontaneous movement patterns which can be reliably tracked. The observation of two particular movements can be used to predict the later neurological outcome of Cerebral Palsy. The first is a pattern of all limb and trunk muscles contracting and relaxing simultaneously, which doesn’t tend to occur in healthy infants. The second is an ongoing stream of small movement of the neck, trunk and limbs in all directions, which occurs at 9 – 18 weeks post term in healthy new-borns, but is absent in those identified as possibly having Cerebral Palsy.

Experts in the observation of movement patterns in young infants are able to identify those which will show later symptoms of Cerebral Palsy with a sensitivity of 95% however, in areas where there may not be such an expert, a reliable, objective and easy to use detection methods could make the early diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy more accurate.

Robot vision can be used to read an infant’s movements to determine if it has cerebral palsy. Photo: NTNU, St. Olavs Hospital

Annette Stahl, an Associate Professor of Robotic Vision at the Department of Engineering Cybernetics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has been investigating ways of automating the process of observation, which would mean that a robot with vision could monitor the patterns of movement instead, which would free up health workers limited time.

Stahl worked with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and St. Olav’s hospital in Trondheim, to observe and record patterns of movement in infants. During the study, video recordings were made of 82 infants, 15 of whom were diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at between two and five years of age. Motion features were extracted from the recordings to predict if they showed symptoms of Cerebral Palsy. The intention is to work towards creating a computer based assessment tool for use in clinical practice.

Top image: Children with Cerebral Palsy (

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