Different Types of Cerebral Palsy

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

The most common form of cerebral palsy, spastic cerebral palsy causes tightness in the muscles. Those with CP often suffer from stiff and jerky movements and have difficulty grasping or releasing objects in their hand (known as fine motor skills). Many children with spastic cerebral palsy rely on medications, therapies, or surgical interventions to manage their spastic movements and prevent secondary complications.

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

Athetoid cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder causing a variety of movement disorders and resulting in involuntary, uncontrolled movements. A child with athetoid CP may be shaky and unsteady and make frequent, abrupt movements.  Due to the mixed muscle tone involved in athetoid cerebral palsy, a child may experience difficulty with fine motor skills and maintaining torso control.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

A less common form of cerebral palsy is ataxic cerebral palsy. Ataxic cerebral palsy disturbs a child’s sense of balance and depth perception, resulting in abrupt, uncoordinated movements. A child with ataxic cerebral palsy may exhibit mixed tone and experience challenges with controlled movements – including walking and fine motor skills.

Healthcare Concerns

Depending on the level of severity, cerebral palsy may result in a variety of healthcare concerns including inadequate oral motor skills and compromised ability to consume adequate fluids and nutrients. Untreated, severe oral motor dysfunction can result in dehydration and failure to thrive. Other healthcare concerns may include childhood osteoporosis, movement disorders, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), contractures of the extremities, and scoliosis. 

Neuromuscular Issues

 These affect the nerves that control voluntary muscles. “Neuro” indicates the origin of the disorder is at a neurological (brain) level. Left untreated, neuromuscular issues can severely impact a child’s quality of life and hamper future development.

Seizures

Not all children with cerebral palsy suffer from seizures, just as not all children who experience seizures have cerebral palsy. Seizures result from abnormal and excessive discharges of nerve impulses originating from specific groups of brain cells. Some of this excessive energy reaches the skeletal muscle fibers, triggering violent contractions visible throughout the seizure episode. Seizures differ depending on the portion of the brain involved. Seizures that occur in only one hemisphere or part of the brain are known as “focal seizures.” These seizures can have a wide variety of effects, from blurred vision or acute pain to visual or auditory hallucinations. Seizures that occur in both hemispheres are referred to as “generalized seizures.”

Range of Motion Issues

Range of motion (ROM) is the measurement used to describe the degree of flexion (how far it can bend) and extension (how far it can stretch or extend) in a joint. ROM is usually measured by degrees. Many children, especially those with spastic cerebral palsy, experience limited range of motion. Children with hemiplegia may experience limited range of motion involving the extremities on one side of their body. Children with quadriplegia may experience range of motion issues with all extremities. This causes significant stress on the spine, increasing the risk for scoliosis.