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Which Type of Cerebral Palsy Does My Child Have?

Which Type of Cerebral Palsy Does My Child Have?

Cerebral palsy always affects muscle strength and movement, but it’s not one diagnosis and appears differently in each child. Your child may have one of several types and mild to severe symptoms.

No matter what type of cerebral palsy your child faces, THINK Neurology for Kids has an exceptional team that understands their challenges and creates customized care plans based on their unique needs.

The entire team — Shaun S. Varghese, MD, Cristina R. Marchesano, MD, Lorena Herbert, MD, Barbara Kiersz-Mueller, DO, Lauren Weaver, MD, Alicia Walls, MD, Sundeep Mandava, MD, Jennifer E. Martin, CPNP-PC, Tammy DeLaGarza, FNP-C,  Una Childers, PA-C, MPAS, Heather King, CPNP-PC, and Robby Korah, FNP-C — has the unique ability to connect with children, encouraging and motivating them to maximize their strengths and achieve their best life.

They also support parents, teaching about their child’s cerebral palsy and suggesting ways to help their child at home. Here, they explain the different types of cerebral palsy your child could have.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy develops before birth when brain areas that control muscles are damaged or don’t develop properly. The damage stops your child’s brain from communicating with muscles, leading to problems with muscle tone, movement, and posture.

Your child may have one of three types of cerebral palsy or a mix of symptoms from several types.

1. Spastic cerebral palsy

There’s a good chance your child has spastic cerebral palsy because it accounts for 85% of all cases. This type occurs when the damage affects the brain area controlling voluntary muscle movement (the motor cortex).

Spasticity is a general term for stiff muscles that are hard to move. Tight muscles may also cause uncontrollable joint flexion. For example, your child’s fingers may curl into a fist, or the knee or elbow joints may bend.

Spastic cerebral palsy affects muscles in different body areas, so your child may have one of the following subtypes:

Spastic hemiplegia (hemiparesis)

Hemiplegia may affect the arm and leg on one side of the body but most often causes spasticity in one arm.

Spastic diplegia (diparesis)

Spastic diplegia primarily affects both legs, although your child may have slight muscle stiffness in their arms. Tight leg muscles can make it difficult for children to walk.

Spastic quadriplegia (quadriparesis)

Quadriplegia is the most severe form of spastic cerebral palsy, affecting all four limbs and the body and face. Children with quadriplegia often can’t walk and may have other conditions like seizures, developmental disabilities, and speech, hearing, or vision problems.

2. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy

Instead of stiff muscles, children with the dyskinetic type have changing muscle tone and uncontrollable muscle movements in the arms, hands, feet, and legs. Their face may also be affected, making it hard to talk or swallow.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy, the second most common type diagnosed in 10-20% of children, arises from damage in the basal ganglia, the brain area responsible for coordinating fine motor skills and gross muscle movement of the arms, legs, and body.

Different changes in muscle tone and movement define the subtypes of dyskinetic cerebral palsy:

You may also notice that your child’s movements worsen if they’re sick, stressed, or feeling strong emotions.

3. Ataxic cerebral palsy

Ataxic cerebral palsy affects 1-10% of children. This type is caused by damage in the brain area controlling balance (cerebellum). Every time a person moves, they depend on good balance to control their body. Without balance, you couldn’t reach or bend without falling over.

Children with ataxic cerebral palsy experience shaky movement when they purposefully move. They may have an unsteady walk, difficulty making quick or repetitive movements, and struggle with the coordination needed to write, button a shirt, or perform other motor skills.

Medical care and advocacy

Our team provides medical care along with a range of therapies. We also serve as your advocate, recommending other professional treatments as needed while coordinating and managing your child's comprehensive care.

You can request an appointment online or call the nearest THINK Neurology for Kids office in The Woodlands, Katy, Sugar Land, Lakeway, and Lake Jackson, Texas if you have questions or want to schedule an evaluation.

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