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Identifying Your Child’s Type of Cerebral Palsy

| Mar 1, 2013 | Birth Injuries

Your child’s healthy development is the most important thing when you’re a parent.

From the moment she is born, you monitor her every movement and document her accomplishments. When she discovered her hands for the first time, you called everyone you knew. When she splashes in the tub, all your friends inevitably see the naked baby pictures, and when she lunges to pet Camille the cow at Oxon Hill Farm, it’s an instant Facebook cover photo.

When she begins to gain control of her body and establish her own way of expression, every movement is precious. However, for some parents, their baby’s movements, or lack thereof, aren’t something to celebrate but rather to be feared, as they could be indicative of cerebral palsy.

According to several nationwide studies, an average of 10,000 babies a year are born with a brain injury that leads to cerebral palsy, and three children out of every thousand suffer from at least one form of the disorder. That means that if your child doesn’t have the disorder, more than likely he will know at least one child in his graduating class who has either spastic, ataxic, athetoid, or mixed CP.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Spastic cerebral palsy causes excessive muscle tone or rigidity (called hypertonicity), and is the most common form of cerebral palsy, affecting about 70 percent of patients. Within the spastic form, there are three subcategories depending on where the rigidity is located:

  • Spastic quadriplegia is present where both arms and both legs have some degree of impairment, causing tremors or jerking and limiting the ability to walk.
  • Spastic diplegia is the diagnosis when there is impairment in the legs but minimal or no impairment of the arms. This causes increased risk for hip problems and leg soreness, but doesn’t generally affect intelligence and communication skills.
  • Spastic hemiplegia occurs when one side of the body—the opposite side from where the brain was injured—is affected, causing abnormal movement and tone.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Ataxic cerebral palsy causes low tone tremors (called hypotonia) that affect specific motor skills, such as writing and balance, especially when walking; hearing and vision may also be affected. On average, about 10 percent of cerebral palsy victims suffer from ataxic CP.

Athetoid or Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

This type of cerebral palsy has mixed muscle tone, that can vary from low (hypotonic) to high (hypertonic), causing writhing movements or seizures of the hands, torso, and body. These tremors drastically limit motor function, communication, and specific motor skills. Athetoid or dyskinetic CP affects approximately 30 percent of patients.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

Any combination of the three major CP types that occur when multiple areas of the brain are injured, either during pregnancy, delivery, or throughout brain development. Multiple injuries and multiple CP types are rare but extremely devastating, as they can affect the entire body as well as brain function.

So the next time you take your little one to romp around Constitution Park or to chase fish at the National Aquarium, pay attention to how he moves and monitor any shaking or trembling for signs of this debilitating disorder, especially if there were complications during birth that could have caused a brain injury.

Did you find this article informative? Let us and your friends know; the next time you upload an adorable photo of your little one on Facebook or Twitter, share this article to spread the word about cerebral palsy.