What are the different forms of Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a mobility disorder, which means that it affects areas of the brain that enable us to move our muscles properly.

For most people, walking, rolling over, and bending down are things that we don’t think twice about. But in fact, there are parts of the brain dedicated to perform these seemingly simple tasks properly. With CP, these movements can be a lot more difficult.

There are 3 different forms of cerebral palsy, and each one affects a different type of movement.

1. Spastic Cerebral Palsy

The first and most common type is called Spastic cerebral palsy. Children with spastic CP are not able to move their bodies fluidly. Their muscles become stiff and tight, which makes it difficult for them to use their arms and legs to do everyday tasks.

There are three general ways spasticity can affect the body, ranging from mild to severe:

  1. Hemiplegia - which typically affects the arm, hand, and leg on one side of the body.
  2. Diplegia, which affects muscle stiffness that is predominantly in the legs.
  3. And Quadriplegia, which affects muscles throughout the entire body.

Some may only have a few tense muscles, making it difficult or painful to walk normally, while others may not be able to walk at all.

2. Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

The second form is called athetoid cerebral palsy, also known as dyskinetic CP, and it causes involuntary movements. Children with athetoid CP may also experience changes in muscle tone – sometimes their muscles can stiffen, and other times their muscles can become floppy and weak. They may also experience shakiness and unsteadiness.

3. Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

The third and least common type is called Ataxic cerebral palsy. Children with ataxic CP have trouble with balance and depth-perception, and therefore have a difficult time keeping themselves steady.

Although many children are only affected by one of these three types of cerebral palsy, it is also possible to have a mix of the three forms.

How is the severity of cerebral palsy measured?

In order to measure the severity of each child’s CP, there are classification systems which measure each child’s abilities on a scale from 1 to 5.

GMFCS - The Gross Motor Function Classification System assesses a child's movement ability, such as sitting, moving around, and walking, on a scale from one to five.

MACS - The Manual Ability Classification System measures a child’s ability to use his or her hands to handle objects in everyday activities.

CFCS - The Communication Function Classification System evaluates a child’s ability to communicate with others!

Every child with cerebral palsy is unique and will have his or her individual limitations. The different levels are just a guide to help parents and doctors set expectations and make preparations for years to come.

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