The William Little Foundation

is a research charity whose vision is to prevent cerebral palsy and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Our Current Work

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The William Little Foundation was established in 1990 years ago by Ian Dawson-Shepherd to complement the work of his other charity, Scope, by seeking the causes of neurodevelopmental disorders, of which CP is the most severe, and ultimately to prevent them. We do this by seeking to fund high-quality basic research, hosting multi-disciplinary workshops and conferences and providing a forum for the exchange of new ideas and best practice across all wings of the UK’s CP sector.

About Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is the most severe form of neurodevelopmental disorder. The medical world’s description of CP is as “a group of permanent disorders of the development of movement and posture, causing activity limitation, that are attributed to non-progressive disturbances that occurred in the developing fetal or infant brain. The motor disorders of cerebral palsy are often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, perception, cognition, communication, and behaviour, by epilepsy, and by secondary musculoskeletal problems.”

While we talk about being born with CP, it can take as long as 2 years for CP to be diagnosed.

So, What Does That Mean?

It means that in most cases a baby will have suffered a form of stroke in the womb, injuring the brain and leaving a challenging legacy. It means that a baby, a child, a teenager, an adult with CP could have a range of disabilities preventing them from being able to stand, to walk, to talk, to play, to control their arms and hands, to eat with a spoon, to use a toilet by themselves.

Many of those with CP will develop pulmonary illnesses, epilepsy, musculoskeletal conditions as they grow older. Some will need 24-hour, 7-days-a-week care for their whole lives. Sometimes this is delivered by care professionals. In all too many cases, it is not, with the burden falling instead on families. What is also beyond doubt is that the poor quality of life and discrimination faced by those affected.

See More About Cerebral Palsy to learn more about CP and effects on people’s lives.

How Many People Have Cerebral Palsy?

It is thought that there are over 100,000 people with CP in the UK today – all with varying degrees of a condition that will be with them their whole lives. However, the number directly affected also includes the families and friends of those with CP: the parents who have had to give up work not only to care full-time but to give themselves the time for the bureaucratic battles that will secure even a proportion of the care and services to which their family member is entitled but for which, today, they need to fight. Roughly two-thirds of the country’s CP population are adults, for whom there is even less statutory provision of care and support. See Adult Cerebral Palsy Hub to understand what it’s like to be an adult with CP.

Globally, the situation is similar in some countries, worse in many others. It is thought that CP roughly affects between 1.5 and 4 in every 1,000 live births with the developing world suffering the higher incidence. However, record-keeping of CP diagnoses is not consistent, reinforcing the essential need for a UK national CP register, building on the evidence of successful examples across Europe, N America and Australia.

See More About Cerebral Palsy for more on CP incidence and the need for a UK CP Register.