Let’s explore the most common type of Cerebral Palsy diagnosed in children today.
But before we do, it’s important to know that Cerebral Palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in childhood (1).
It is defined as brain damage that happens before or shortly after birth which affects your mobility and muscle tone.
When diagnosed, a doctor may categorize cerebral palsy into one of four main types:
- Mixed Type
This is based upon the child’s mobility that is impacted including the number of limbs or body parts that are affected.
So let’s dive into what you need to know about each type including the most common diagnosis.
Be sure to stick around from start to finish to learn about various treatment options including helpful resources to reference.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Spastic Cerebral Palsy, commonly referred to as Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy or Bilateral Cerebral Palsy, is the most common type of CP diagnosed in children affecting around 80% (1).
Spasticity is a form of hypertonia, meaning increased muscle tone.
Painful limbs are often associated with heightened muscle tone.
You may also notice the muscles to be stiff and tight with jerky movements.
Suffering from brain damage to the motor cortex, which controls voluntary body movements, a child may show the following symptoms:
- Difficulty stretching
- Muscle spasms
- Difficulty walking
- Difficulty lifting an object
- Poor coordination and control of muscle movements
- Bending of the elbows, wrists, and fingers
- Problems with posture
- Feeding issues
Now that you know some symptoms to be on the lookout for, let’s familiarize yourself with how Spastic Cerebral Palsy is assessed.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy is assessed by the area and number of limbs impacted.
With that said, there are five types of Spastic CP to know:
Spastic Diplegia is when two limbs are affected usually in the legs.
This makes walking especially difficult.
Often, children walk in a wide ‘scissor-like gait’ or on their toes.
Spastic Hemiplegia is when one side of the body is affected.
There will be movement and muscle tone difficulties, usually in the arm.
Spastic Quadriplegia is the most severe type of Spastic Cerebral Palsy where motor dysfunction occurs all over the body in all four extremities.
Usually, the legs are affected more than the arms.
There may also be limited control over facial muscles.
Spastic Monoplegia is very rare, affecting one limb.
Spastic Triplegia is also very rare, affecting three limbs.
Athetoid Cerebral Palsy
Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, also referred to as Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy, is the second most common type of CP (3).
You may notice abnormal movements in the arms, legs, and hands.
Due to the loss of muscle control, this type of CP makes it challenging to control body coordination and mobility.
During times of emotional stress, these uncontrollable movements tend to become more severe but usually subside during periods of rest or sleep.
A child with Athetoid CP may show the following symptoms:
- Weak muscle tone
- Uncontrollable movements
- Difficulty in sitting or walking
- Difficulty in grasping objects
- Learning difficulties
- Unable to eat
- Muscles may appear tighter or looser than usual
- Poor motor control
It’s important to know the resulting brain damage is to the basal ganglia, which is the part of the brain responsible for motor control. It is also part of the body that affects motor skills such as learning and emotions.
The cerebellum may also be impacted too resulting in poor movement and posture.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy is derived from the word ataxia, meaning loss of control of your body movements.
This is the least common type of cerebral palsy impacting around 6% of children (2).
It is caused by damage to the center of the brain, known as the cerebellum.
The brain damage normally occurs prior to birth from a brain bleed, lesions, high blood pressure from the mother during pregnancy, or problems with the placenta.
When damaged, the cerebellum results in poor coordination and a lack of balance.
This leads us to symptoms to be on the look for.
Kids with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy may walk with their feet spread apart, and their walk may look unbalanced or jerky (4).
You may also notice movements to appear unsteady and shaky in the arms and legs. This is because balance and depth perception is affected.
Other symptoms may include:
- Difficulty writing
- Speech and oral problems
- Slow eye movements
- Unable to make quick movements
- A tendency to fall and stumble when walking
Mixed Type Cerebral Palsy
Mixed Type Cerebral Palsy is the result of multiple brain injuries that are located in various spots of the brain impacting about 10% of children (5).
When a child shows signs of more than one type of CP, they are usually diagnosed as a mixed type.
The most common mixed types of CP include a combination of spastic and athetoid.
The least common variety is the combination of ataxic and athetoid.
A child with Mixed Type CP may show the following symptoms:
- Swallowing issues
- Intellectual disabilities
- Jerky movements
- Poor posture
- Abnormal reflexes
- Tremors or shakiness
- Coordination problems
The child’s condition may involve one or a combination of these symptoms.
In particular, a child may have issues with involuntary movements, spasticity (such as abrupt, convulsive movements), and/or lack of balance and coordination.
To Better Understand Mixed CP…
Here is a summary of the primary issues associated with the other types of cerebral palsy:
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Spastic is high muscle tone; this causes stiffness and jerky movements.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic are issues with balance and coordination; this impacts normal body movements.
Athetoid Cerebral Palsy
Athetoid is a combination of low and high muscle tone; this results in rigid or floppy-like movements.
6 Common Cerebral Palsy Treatments
Treatments for CP depend on the symptoms and the type of cerebral palsy a child develops.
Regardless, the most common types of cerebral palsy treatment you will see and hear about include:
One of the best ways for a child to develop their fine motor skills such as hand and eye coordination is through a communication device.
It is a fun and engaging way for communication to happen through guided interaction between the child and caretaker.
Intensive Physical Therapy
An effective form of therapy to enhance a child’s gross motor functions like movements in the arms, legs, mid-section, or trunk.
The most commonly used medications to treat CP include pain management, muscle relaxers, depression, seizures, stool softeners, and uncontrolled body movements.
Occupational Therapy (OT)
To help a child improve their activities of daily living (ADL) while enhancing sensory skills.
For instance, OT helps a child develop independence and confidence in everyday tasks like eating, drinking, dressing, and hygiene.
Also, known as therapeutic therapy, is an activity to help a child with their physical, mental, and social skills.
Activities may range from swimming, horseback riding, sports, arts, playing, and animals.
To improve communication interactions while strengthening facial muscles and oral control.
Even though Cerebral Palsy is a permanent and irreversible condition, the positive takeaway is all types of cerebral palsy may be treated to improve your overall quality of life!
According to doctors and therapists, intensive physical therapy is one of the hottest new therapy trends today and an effective way to help a child reach developmental milestones like crawling, rolling over, walking, and eating.
A Guided Resource for Cerebral Palsy
If you or someone you know cares for a child with cerebral palsy, this is a must-read guide.
It provides a path to follow along with answers to your most commonly asked questions.
A Guided Resource for Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Spastic CP is the most commonly diagnosed CP among children today.
This is an inspirational evidence-based guide to know what to expect and better understand motor problems.
About the Author
Lindsey is the co-founder of The LENN Foundation and content creator of the Intensive Therapy for Kids blog.
When she isn’t busy playing Godzilla with her son or chasing around her mischievous Rottweiler pup, she loves creating experiences and memories with her loved ones (traveling, watching a good flick, trying new n’ yummy restaurants). Speaking of restaurants, one of her favs is Taco Bell!
Most of all, she is grateful for her supportive circle of family, friends, and to live out her passion for helping kids with Cerebral Palsy (like her sweet nephew Lenny).
If you’re curious about The LENN Foundation, you may see the kids’ helped and feel-good content here. ♥
- National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). What Is Cerebral Palsy? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Facts About Cerebral Palsy (2020). What is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy? Cerebral Palsy FAQ.
- Classifications of Cerebral Palsy (2021). Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy. Birth Injury Help Center.
- M. Wade Shrader, MD, Margaret Salzbrenner, APRN (2021). What Is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy? Kids Health.
- Mixed Cerebral Palsy (2021). Cerebral Palsy Group.
We want to wrap up by extending our gratitude to thank you for stopping by today!
What type of Cerebral Palsy are you familiar with or have experience with?
Let us know in the comments below. ♥
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