Types and Symptoms

Common Types of Cerebral Palsy (CP)

Defining CP and Understanding Associated Conditions and Symptoms

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that impact the ability of a person to develop normal movement and posture control. The disorders cause activity limitation and are attributed to non-progressive complications during brain development. CP is nearly always the result of a disturbance before birth, during delivery, or immediately after, but there are rare cases of brain injury in older children that lead to CP. Challenges with muscle tone and posture may become more obvious with age but the initial damage from CP does not progress. In addition to challenges related to motion, posture, and physical coordination, intellectual difficulties, seizures, blindness, difficulty swallowing, speaking, hearing and breathing may also be present.

The term "cerebral palsy" encompasses a wide-variety of challenges but there is a commonality: all people with CP have suffered brain damage that impairs their motor function ability. Though cognitive challenges may be common, diagnosis is focused mainly upon motor function disability. While damage to a child's developing brain is a common factor for CP, not all brain damage leads to the condition. There are many disorders that can be caused by brain damage and some of the symptoms may be similar to CP. Diagnosing CP must be done by a qualified medical expert who can determine the type of disability in question. In order to obtain appropriate care, the specific type of condition from which a child suffers must be identified.

Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy and Classifying its Forms

To obtain a diagnosis, a physician will study a child's medical history, details from its delivery and whether or not a child meets developmental milestones. They may use the Gross Motor Function Classification System, the Ashworth scale, Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory or other standardized measurement to test motor function and to identify mobility challenges. Detailed physical and neurological examinations may also be performed. These may help identify areas of the brain that are failing to develop in a normal manner.

Once CP has been diagnosed and other possible conditions have been ruled out, the symptoms will allow classification into types. The following are the most commonly used classifications: Spastic, Extrapyramidal, Mixed and Ataxic. Within these groups are also sub-classifications. By identifying the type of CP that your child has, clinicians can help you receive medical care and support that is specifically tailored to your child's challenges. Because the type of CP that your child develops is contingent, in part, on the part of their brain that was injured, their symptoms and specific disabilities may indicate whether or not their challenges were preventable had they received appropriate medical treatment.