Types of Cerebral Palsy

Quick Answer

There are several types of cerebral palsy. The type of cerebral palsy a child develops can depend on the location of the brain damage sustained during birth. Each type of cerebral palsy has a different set of symptoms. Learn more about cerebral palsy types.

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What Are Cerebral Palsy Types?

Cerebral palsy is a disorder caused by brain damage during birth. Since the brain is such a complex organ, cerebral palsy has several different forms. The location of the brain injury helps determine which type of cerebral palsy a person may have.

Each type of cerebral palsy has unique characteristics. Cerebral palsy types can be classified by symptoms, the type of movement affected, and the parts of the body the condition impacts.

The five types of cerebral palsy include:

  • Ataxic/dyskinetic cerebral palsy
  • Athetoid cerebral palsy
  • Hypotonic cerebral palsy
  • Mixed type cerebral palsy
  • Spastic cerebral palsy

Each type has their own set of common symptoms. However, some children may have symptoms from more than one type of cerebral palsy if they sustain widespread brain damage. These children are usually diagnosed with mixed type cerebral palsy.

Find more information about each type of cerebral palsy below.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type and affects 77% of all cerebral palsy patients.

This type is caused by damage to parts of the brain called the motor cortex and the pyramidal tracts. The motor cortex sends voluntary movement information from the brain to the muscles, and the pyramidal tracts send information from the motor cortex to the spinal cord.

Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by stiff muscles (hypertonia). This can lead to jerky, spastic, repeated movements of the limbs (spasticity).

This type is further broken down into more specific cerebral palsy diagnoses based on the type of movement disorder a child has.

Spastic Quadriplegia

Spastic quadriplegia involves high muscle tone which limits movement. Symptoms include tremors or jerking of the arms and legs.

Many people with spastic quadriplegia will not be able to walk. Because of this, spastic quadriplegia is the most severe type of cerebral palsy.

Spastic Diplegia

Spastic diplegia impairs the legs but doesn’t usually affect the arms. People with spastic diplegia often have difficulty walking. Hip problems are also common in spastic diplegia patients.

Spastic Hemiplegia

Spastic hemiplegia means one side of the body is affected, resulting in issues with muscle movement. The affected side of the body is opposite the injured side of the brain.

For example, if the right side of the brain were injured, the left arm and left leg would be affected.


Take Our Milestones Quiz

Taking note of your child’s physical, social, and emotional skills can help you determine if they potentially suffered from an injury at birth. An early diagnosis can help your child get the treatment they need as soon as possible.

Q1: How old is your child?

0-2 Months

3-4 Months

5-6 Months

7-9 Months

10-12 Months

13-18 Months

19-23 Months

24+ Months


  • Q2: Hold their head steadily on their own?
  • Q3: Push themselves up when they are lying on their stomach?
  • Q4: Start to make smoother movements with their arms and legs?
  • Q5: Smile at other people?
  • Q6: Bring their hands to their mouth?
  • Q7: Turn their head when they hear a noise?
  • Q8: Coo or make gurgling noises?
  • Q9: Follow things with their eyes?
  • Q10: Try to look at their parents or caregivers?
  • Q11: Show boredom, cry, or fuss when engaged in an activity that hasn’t changed in awhile?
BACKBACK0-2-years old child


  • Q2: Hold their head steadily on their own?
  • Q3: Push down on their legs when their feet are on a flat surface?
  • Q4: Start to roll over from their stomach to their back?
  • Q5: Hold and shake a toy such as a rattle?
  • Q6: Bring their hands to their mouth?
  • Q7: Play with people and start to cry when the playing stops?
  • Q8: Smile spontaneously, especially at people?
  • Q9: Copy some movements and facial expressions of other people?
  • Q10: Babbles with expressions and copy sounds they hear?
  • Q11: Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired?
  • Q12: Respond to affection like hugging or kissing?
  • Q13: Follows moving things with eyes from side to side?
  • Q14: Recognize familiar people at a distance?
BACKBACK3-4-years old child


  • Q2: Roll over on both sides (front to back/back to front)?
  • Q3: Begin to sit without support?
  • Q4: Rock back and forth?
  • Q5: Supports weight on legs and might bounce when standing?
  • Q6: Begin to pass things from one hand to another?
  • Q7: Bring objects such as toys to their mouth?
  • Q8: Know if someone is not familiar to them and is a stranger?
  • Q9: Respond to other people’s emotions such as a smile or a frown?
  • Q10: Enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror?
  • Q11: Look at things around them?
  • Q12: Respond to sounds they hear by making sounds themselves?
  • Q13: Make sounds to show joy or displeasure?
  • Q14: Respond to their own name?
  • Q15: Start to string vowels together such as "ah," "eh," "oh," or say consonant sounds such as "m" or "b"?
  • Q16: Begin to laugh?
BACKBACK5-6-years old child


  • Q2: Crawl?
  • Q3: Stand while holding onto something to support them?
  • Q4: Sit without support?
  • Q5: Pull themselves up to stand?
  • Q6: Play peek-a-boo?
  • Q7: Move things from one hand to another?
  • Q8: Pick small things up such as a piece of cereal with their thumb and index finger?
  • Q9: Look for things that they see you hide?
  • Q10: Watch the path of something as it falls?
  • Q11: Show fear over being around strangers?
  • Q12: Become clingy with adults familiar to them?
  • Q13: Have favorite toys?
  • Q14: Use their fingers to point?
  • Q15: Understand “no?”
  • Q16: Make a lot of repetitive sounds such as “mamama” or “bababa”?
  • Q17: Copy sounds and gestures of other people?
BACKBACK7-9 years old child


  • Q2: Stand alone with no support?
  • Q3: Walk while holding onto furniture?
  • Q4: Take a few steps without holding onto anything?
  • Q5: Get into a sitting position without any help?
  • Q6: Bang two things together when playing?
  • Q7: Poke with their index finger?
  • Q8: Start to use things like hair brushes or drinking cups correctly?
  • Q9: Find hidden objects easily?
  • Q10: Play peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake?
  • Q11: Become shy or nervous around strangers?
  • Q12: Repeat actions or sounds to get attention?
  • Q13: Puts out an arm or leg to help when getting dressed?
  • Q14: Cry when a parent leaves the room?
  • Q15: Show that they have favorite things or people?
  • Q16: Show fear?
  • Q17: Say things such as “mama,” “dada,” or “uh-oh”?
  • Q18: Try to say the words you say?
  • Q19: Start to use gestures like waving or shaking head “no”?
BACKBACK10-12 years old child


  • Q2: Walk by themselves?
  • Q3: Walk up stairs and run?
  • Q4: Pulls toys while walking?
  • Q5: Drink from a cup on their own?
  • Q6: Eat with a spoon on their own?
  • Q7: Can help undress themselves?
  • Q8: Have occasional temper tantrums?
  • Q9: Show affection to familiar people?
  • Q10: Become clingy in new situations?
  • Q11: Explore their environment alone with parents close by?
  • Q12: Say several single words?
  • Q13: Say and shake their head “no”?
  • Q14: Point to show things to other people?
  • Q15: Scribble?
  • Q16: Know what ordinary products such as phones, spoons, and brushes are used for?
  • Q17: Follow 1-step commands such as “sit down” or “stand up”?
  • Q18: Plays with a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed them?
BACKBACK13-18 years old child


  • Q2: Begin to run?
  • Q3: Kick a ball?
  • Q4: Climb down and onto furniture on their own?
  • Q5: Walk up and down stairs while holding on?
  • Q6: Stand on their tiptoes?
  • Q7: Throw a ball overhand?
  • Q8: Copy others, especially people older than them?
  • Q9: Get excited around other children?
  • Q10: Show more independence as they age?
  • Q11: Do what they were told not to do and become defiant?
  • Q12: Point to things when they are named?
  • Q13: Know names of familiar people or body parts?
  • Q14: Say 2 to 4-word sentences?
  • Q15: Repeat words they hear?
  • Q16: Complete sentences and rhymes in familiar books?
  • Q17: Name items in books such as dogs, cats, birds, etc.?
  • Q18: Play simple pretend games?
  • Q19: Start to use one hand more than the other?
  • Q20: Begin to sort shapes and colors?
  • Q21: Follow 2-step instructions such as “pick up your hat and put it on your head?”
BACKBACK19-23 years old child


  • Q2: Run easily?
  • Q3: Climb?
  • Q4: Walk up and down stairs with one foot on each step?
  • Q5: Dress and undress themselves?
  • Q6: Show affection for friends without being told?
  • Q7: Take turns when playing games?
  • Q8: Show concern when others are crying?
  • Q9: Understand the idea of “mine,” “his,” or “hers”?
  • Q10: Show many different emotions?
  • Q11: Copy adults and friends?
  • Q12: Separate easily from their parents?
  • Q13: Get upset when there is a major change in their routine?
  • Q14: Say words such as “I,” “me,” “we,” “you,” and some plural nouns?
  • Q15: Say their first name, age, and gender?
  • Q16: Carry on a conversation with 2 to 3 sentences?
  • Q17: Work toys with buttons and other moving parts?
  • Q18: Play pretend with dolls, animals, or people?
  • Q19: Finish 3 or 4 piece puzzles?
  • Q20: Copy a circle when drawing?
  • Q21: Turn pages of a book one page at a time?
  • Q22: Turn door handles?
BACKBACK24 months + old child

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Ataxic cerebral palsy is characterized by a lack of coordination. It is the rarest type of the condition, appearing in 2.4% of all people with cerebral palsy. This type of cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the cerebellum, which helps control movement.

Symptoms of ataxic cerebral palsy include:

  • Balance problems
  • Difficulty walking
  • Poor coordination
  • Vision trouble

Children with ataxic cerebral palsy often walk with their feet far apart. They may find it hard to make quick and precise movements, so they might have trouble completing daily tasks.

Some children with this type of cerebral palsy experience intention tremors, which occur when a child’s body trembles as they move when doing something. For example, a child’s arm or hand may quiver when reaching for a book. As their hand moves closer to the book, the shaking worsens.

Athetoid/Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Athetoid/dyskinetic cerebral palsy affects about 2.6% of all individuals diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Athetoid cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia is a group of structures in the brain responsible for controlling movements. Damage to this area can result in poor movement control.

The most common symptom of athetoid cerebral palsy is involuntary movement. This may include slow and/or uncontrollable jerky movements in the hands, feet, arms, or legs. Athetoid cerebral palsy can also cause changes in muscle tone, resulting in muscles that are too loose or too tight.

Children with this type of cerebral palsy may find it hard to walk or use their hands. Some children may drool or make faces due to overactive muscles in the face and tongue.

There are different forms of athetoid cerebral palsy depending on which structure in the basal ganglia has damage.

Different forms of athetoid cerebral palsy include:

  • Ataxia: Lack of coordination and balance
  • Athetosis: Slow, writhing movements of the face, hands, and fingers
  • Chorea: Involuntary movements
  • Choreoathetoid: A combination of chorea and athetosis symptoms
  • Dystonia: Slow rotational movement of the limbs and/or torso
  • Rigidity: Restricted movement caused by high muscle tone

Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy

Hypotonic cerebral palsy is one of the rarest types and accounts for 2.6% of all cases.

This type is caused by damage to the cerebellum. This part of the brain is in charge of receiving messages from the spinal cord and other brain areas to control movement.

Most with hypotonic cerebral palsy will suffer from floppy muscles (hypotonia). Patients may have limited control over the affected muscles.

Other signs of hypotonic cerebral palsy include:

  • Feeding and swallowing difficulties
  • Lack of balance and coordination
  • Lack of head control
  • Very flexible and loose muscles

Mixed Type Cerebral Palsy

Mixed cerebral palsy is the combination of at least two other types and is caused by damage to multiple areas of the brain. Children with mixed type cerebral palsy may have symptoms from spastic, ataxic and/or athetoid cerebral palsy.

Around 15% of all people with cerebral palsy are diagnosed as mixed type. The most common form is a combination of spastic and athetoid cerebral palsies. The least common type is ataxic and athetoid cerebral palsies.

Since mixed type cerebral palsy involves elements of other forms of cerebral palsy, symptoms can vary for every patient.

That said, a common symptom among patients with mixed type cerebral palsy is stiff muscles that prevent movement. Other common symptoms of mixed type cerebral palsy are difficulty with motor skills, swallowing, and speaking.

If you believe your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by medical negligence, speak to one of our trusted nurse advocates to learn more about the next steps.

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Treatment for Types of Cerebral Palsy

Each case of cerebral palsy is different. Symptoms can vary greatly by each type of cerebral palsy and how badly the brain was damaged.

Thankfully, there are several treatment options available for all types of cerebral palsy to help children manage their impairment and help them live a long, happy life.

Cerebral palsy treatment options may include:

The best way to ensure your child is getting the treatment they need to manage their type is to get an accurate cerebral palsy diagnosis. With a correct diagnosis, you and your child’s doctors can make a treatment plan that best fits their needs.

Get Help Paying For Cerebral Palsy Treatment

No matter which type of cerebral palsy your child is diagnosed with, they deserve the best care — but treatment can be expensive.

Thankfully, you can pursue financial assistance to cover medical costs. Filing a cerebral palsy lawsuit can help your child get the treatment they deserve.

Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals have a duty to safely deliver babies and avoid birth trauma. When birth injuries occur, medical negligence may be to blame.

Unfortunately, many cases of cerebral palsy could have been prevented with quality care during childbirth. You may be able to access compensation and justice with a lawsuit if a doctor’s mistakes harmed your child.

Get a free case review today to learn if you qualify to take cerebral palsy legal action.

Birth Injury Support Team

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

View 8 Sources
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  2. Cerebral palsy. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/cerebral-palsy
  3. Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Parent’s Guide 2nd ed. Edited by Elaine Geralis. Chapter 1: What is Cerebral Palsy? by Dr. Elliot S. Gersh. Chapter 3: Medical Concerns and Treatment by Dr. Gersh. Woodbine House, Inc. Bethesda, MD. 1998
  4. Hypotonic cerebral palsy in kids - what you need to know. Surestep. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://surestep.net/blog/hypotonic-cerebral-palsy-in-kids/#:~:text=Hypotonic%20CP%20is%20a%20form,crawling%2C%20standing%2C%20etc
  5. Understanding Cerebral Palsy: A Guide for Parents and Professionals. Marion Stanton. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. London and Philadelphia. 2012.
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). About intellectual and developmental disabilities (idds). Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/idds/conditioninfo/default#:~:text=%22IDD%22%20is%20the%20term%20often,affect%20or%20how%20they%20occur
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). What are the types of cerebral palsy? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/cerebral-palsy/conditioninfo/types
  8. Yeargin-Allsopp , M., Van Naarden Braun, K., Doernberg, N. S., Benedict, R. E., Kirby, R. S., & Durkin, M. S. (n.d.). Prevalence of cerebral palsy in 8-year-old children in three areas of the United States in 2002: A Multisite collaboration. Pediatrics. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18310204/
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