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.
Each type has its own set of common symptoms. However, some children may have symptoms from more than one type of cerebral palsy if they sustained widespread brain damage. These children are usually diagnosed with mixed 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. When this is damaged, a person will lack control over simple, direct movements. The pyramidal tract is a system of nerves that 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 involves increased 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 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 have increased muscle tone, tremors, and jerking.
Spastic diplegia impairs the legs but doesn’t usually affect the arms. People with spastic diplegia often have difficulty walking. Due to tightness and limited mobility, hip problems are also common in spastic diplegia patients.
IS YOUR CHILD MISSING DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES?
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 DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child hold their head steadily on their own?
- Q3: Can your child push themselves up when they are lying on their stomach?
- Q4: Has your child started to make smoother movements with their arms and legs?
- Q5: Does your child smile at other people?
- Q6: Can your child bring their hands to their mouth?
- Q7: Does your child turn their head when they hear a noise?
- Q8: Does your child coo or make gurgling noises?
- Q9: Does your child follow things with their eyes?
- Q10: Does your child try to look at their parents or caregivers?
- Q11: Does your child show boredom, cry, or fuss when engaged in an activity that hasn’t changed in a while?
3-4 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child hold their head steadily on their own?
- Q3: Does your child push down on their legs when their feet are on a flat surface?
- Q4: Has your child started to roll over from their stomach to their back?
- Q5: Can your child hold and shake a toy such as a rattle?
- Q6: Does your child bring their hands to their mouth?
- Q7: Does your child play with people and start to cry when the playing stops?
- Q8: Does your child smile spontaneously, especially at people?
- Q9: Does your child copy some movements and facial expressions of other people?
- Q10: Does your child babble with expressions and copy sounds they hear?
- Q11: Does your child cry in different ways to show hunger, pain, or tiredness?
- Q12: Does your child respond to affection like hugging or kissing?
- Q13: Does your child follow moving things with their eyes from side to side?
- Q14: Does your child recognize familiar people at a distance?
5-6 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child roll over on both sides (front to back/back to front)?
- Q3: Has your child begun to sit without support?
- Q4: Does your child rock back and forth?
- Q5: Can your child support their weight on their legs (and perhaps bounce) when standing?
- Q6: Has your child begun to pass things from one hand to the other?
- Q7: Does your child bring objects such as toys to their mouth?
- Q8: Does your child know if someone is not familiar to them and is a stranger?
- Q9: Does your child respond to other people’s emotions, such as a smile or a frown?
- Q10: Does your child enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror?
- Q11: Does your child look at things around them?
- Q12: Does your child respond to sounds they hear by making sounds themselves?
- Q13: Does your child make sounds to show joy or displeasure?
- Q14: Does your child respond to their own name?
- Q15: Has your child started to string vowels together, such as "ah," "eh," or "oh," or started to say consonant sounds such as "m" or "b"?
- Q16: Has your child begun to laugh?
7-9 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child crawl?
- Q3: Can your child stand while holding on to something to support them?
- Q4: Can your child sit without support?
- Q5: Can your child pull themselves up to stand?
- Q6: Does your child play peekaboo?
- Q7: Can your child move things from one hand to the other?
- Q8: Can your child pick small things up, such as a piece of cereal, with their thumb and index finger?
- Q9: Does your child look for things that they see you hide?
- Q10: Does your child watch the path of something as it falls?
- Q11: Does your child show fear when around strangers?
- Q12: Does your child become clingy with adults who are familiar to them?
- Q13: Does your child have favorite toys?
- Q14: Does your child use their fingers to point?
- Q15: Does your child understand “no”?
- Q16: Does your child make a lot of repetitive sounds, such as “mamama” or “bababa”?
- Q17: Does your child copy the sounds and gestures of other people?
10-12 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child stand alone with no support?
- Q3: Does your child walk while holding on to furniture?
- Q4: Can your child take a few steps without holding on to anything?
- Q5: Can your child get into a sitting position without any help?
- Q6: Does your child bang two things together when playing?
- Q7: Does your child poke with their index finger?
- Q8: Has your child started to use things like hairbrushes or drinking cups correctly?
- Q9: Does your child find hidden objects easily?
- Q10: Does your child play peekaboo or pat-a-cake?
- Q11: Does your child become shy or nervous around strangers?
- Q12: Does your child repeat actions or sounds to get attention?
- Q13: Does your child put out an arm or leg to help when getting dressed?
- Q14: Does your child cry when a parent leaves the room?
- Q15: Does your child show that they have favorite things or people?
- Q16: Does your child show fear?
- Q17: Does your child say things such as “mama,” “dada,” or “uh-oh”?
- Q18: Does your child try to say the words you say?
- Q19: Has your child started to use gestures like waving or shaking their head “no”?
13-18 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child walk by themselves?
- Q3: Does your child walk up stairs and run?
- Q4: Does your child pull toys while walking?
- Q5: Can your child drink from a cup on their own?
- Q6: Can your child eat with a spoon on their own?
- Q7: Can your child help undress themselves?
- Q8: Does your child have occasional temper tantrums?
- Q9: Does your child show affection to familiar people?
- Q10: Does your child become clingy in new situations?
- Q11: Does your child explore their environment alone with parents close by?
- Q12: Can your child say several single words?
- Q13: Can your child say and shake their head “no”?
- Q14: Does your child point to show things to other people?
- Q15: Does your child scribble?
- Q16: Does your child know what ordinary products such as phones, spoons, and brushes are used for?
- Q17: Can your child follow one-step commands such as “sit down” or “stand up”?
- Q18: Does your child play with a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed it?
19-23 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Has your child begun to run?
- Q3: Has your child kicked a ball?
- Q4: Can your child climb down and onto furniture on their own?
- Q5: Can your child walk up and down stairs while holding on?
- Q6: Can your child stand on their tiptoes?
- Q7: Has your child thrown a ball overhand?
- Q8: Does your child copy others, especially people older than them?
- Q9: Does your child get excited around other children?
- Q10: Has your child shown more independence as they've aged?
- Q11: Does your child do what they were told not to do and become defiant?
- Q12: Does your child point to things when they are named?
- Q13: Does your child know names of familiar people or body parts?
- Q14: Does your child say 2 to 4-word sentences?
- Q15: Does your child repeat words they hear?
- Q16: Does your child complete sentences and rhymes in familiar books?
- Q17: Does your child name items in books, such as dogs, cats, and birds?
- Q18: Does your child play simple pretend games?
- Q19: Has your child started to use one hand more than the other?
- Q20: Has your child begun to sort shapes and colors?
- Q21: Does your child follow 2-step instructions, such as “pick up your hat and put it on your head?”
24+ MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child run easily?
- Q3: Can your child climb?
- Q4: Can your child walk up and down stairs with one foot on each step?
- Q5: Can your child dress and undress themselves?
- Q6: Does your child show affection for friends without being told?
- Q7: Does your child take turns when playing games?
- Q8: Does your child show concern when others are crying?
- Q9: Does your child understand the idea of “mine" and "theirs"?
- Q10: Does your child show many different emotions?
- Q11: Does your child copy adults and friends?
- Q12: Does your child separate easily from their parents?
- Q13: Does your child get upset when there is a major change in their routine?
- Q14: Does your child say words such as “I,” “me,” “we,” “you,” and some plural nouns?
- Q15: Can your child say their first name, age, and gender?
- Q16: Can your child carry on a conversation with 2 to 3 sentences?
- Q17: Can your child work toys with buttons and other moving parts?
- Q18: Does your child play pretend with dolls, animals, or people?
- Q19: Can your child finish 3 or 4 piece puzzles?
- Q20: Can your child copy a circle when drawing?
- Q21: Can your child turn pages of a book one page at a time?
- Q22: Can your child turn door handles?
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.
This can make it difficult for a child to feed themselves. When a child is unable to perform daily important tasks, it increases the need for a full time caregiver of the child.
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 is damaged.
Different forms of athetoid cerebral palsy include:
- Ataxia: Lack of coordination and balance
- Athetosis: Slow, circular movements of the face, hands, and fingers
- Chorea: Rapid 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 of cerebral palsy 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 also 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 Cerebral Palsy
Mixed cerebral palsy is a combination of at least two other types of cerebral palsy and is caused by damage to multiple areas of the brain. Children with mixed 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 a mix of ataxic and athetoid cerebral palsies.
Since mixed cerebral palsy involves elements of different cerebral palsy types, symptoms can vary for every patient.
That said, a common symptom among patients with mixed cerebral palsy is stiff muscles that prevent movement. Other common symptoms of mixed 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 your next steps.
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 symptoms and live a long, happy life.
Cerebral palsy treatment options may include:
- Adaptive equipment, such as wheelchairs
- Assistive devices to help with daily tasks
- Mobility aids
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
The best way to ensure your child is getting the treatment they need to manage their type of cerebral palsy is to get an accurate cerebral palsy diagnosis. With a correct diagnosis, you and your child’s doctors can develop a treatment plan that best fits your child’s 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.