Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder that affects a person’s movements and muscle coordination.
Movements and coordination can greatly differ from one child with cerebral palsy to the next, and it’s generally due to the type of the disorder that each person has.
Different types of cerebral palsy affect different parts of the brain, resulting in various types of symptoms.
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NIH) states that spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of the disorder, affecting around 70% to 80% of all diagnosed cases of cerebral palsy.
Spastic cerebral palsy causes children to have exaggerated reflexes and stiff, sometimes painful muscles.
The majority of children will have some degree of difficulties with walking, depending on the type of spastic cerebral palsy they have.
Spastic cerebral palsy is broken down into three different sub-types, which include:
- Spastic diplegia
- Spastic hemiplegia
- Spastic quadriplegia
Children with diplegic cerebral palsy, also known as spastic diplegia, may display a number of different symptoms and traits, with the most common including:
- Extreme difficulties with speech
- Inability to walk unassisted
- Abnormal development of motor skills
- Stiff limbs accompanied by a “floppy neck”
- Cognitive issues, which can range from mild to severe
- Seizures, although not all children with diplegic cerebral palsy will experience this
Diplegic cerebral palsy accounts for around 22.4% of all cases of diagnosed cerebral palsy. It’s usually detected during infancy, when the baby fails to meet physical developmental milestones.
One of the major signs physicians look for when diagnosing this form of cerebral palsy is an infant/toddler who uses their arms to crawl, without using their legs. Some may not attempt to crawl at all.
Neonatal asphyxia is the primary cause for diplegic cerebral palsy, but according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, at least 10% is caused via birth injuries.
Spastic Quadriplegia is the most severe type of spastic cerebral palsy. Also known as spastic quad CP, it’s marked by the inability to use the legs and arms.
Children with spastic quad have a heightened risk of developing spinal issues, language disorders, seizures, deformities, and cognitive issues.
Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy
Hyerotonic cerebral palsy, also known as hypotonic CP, is a form of the disorder marked by abnormally relaxed muscles and decreased muscle tone.
This makes it difficult for babies to develop proper head control, often exhibiting features of a “rag doll.”
When children with hypotonic CP grow older, they may have issues sitting up correctly, difficulties with speech, problems with walking, and poor reflexes.
Other symptoms of hypotonic cerebral palsy include:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle resistance when trying to make movements
- “Scissor” movements with legs
- Random muscle contractions
- Respiratory issues
- Possible signs of autism
- Abnormal truncal tone
Non-Spastic (Extrapyramidal) Cerebral Palsy
Non-spastic CP is marked by abnormal movements in the arms, hands, and legs, making it difficult to control body movements and coordination.
Children with this form of cerebral palsy can exhibit slow, writhing-type movements and/or quick, jerking movements. In turn, walking and sitting down can be difficult.
Some children with non-spastic CP may have troubles with controlling their face and tongue movements, resulting in difficulties with speech.
There are four subtypes of non-spastic cerebral palsy, which include:
Marked by muscle tone that can range from stiff to floppy.
Marked by extreme fluctuations in muscle, even while the child is asleep.
Marked by by movements that make the child appear uncoordinated and clumsy.
Children with non-spastic cerebral palsy may have issues with fine motor skills, including grasping small objects such as utensils, crayons, pencils, etc. They also generally have balance issues when walking.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy
Sometimes, children develop a mix of the aforementioned types of CP. A combination of dyskinetic and spastic cerebral palsy is the most common, but children can develop a mix of each kind in some cases.
Symptoms will depend on which types of cerebral palsy the child has. Mixed cerebral can also result in additional associated medical problems and disorders.
Common symptoms and medical problems experienced by children with mixed cerebral palsy include:
- Stiff muscles with involuntary movements
- A combination of spastic and floppy movements
- Cognitive issues
- Issues with speaking and swallowing
- Hearing problems
- Drooling and facial grimaces
- Vision problems, including “lazy eye” and and/or cortical blindness