Types of cerebral palsy

By Jason Brady

baby's feet in parent hands

There are three different types of cerebral palsy, however, even within each classification of the condition, no two cases will be exactly the same.

Types of cerebral palsy

There are three different types of cerebral palsy, however, even within each classification of the condition, no two cases will be exactly the same. This is because the condition has a wide spectrum of severity, however, children will often display similar characteristics.

Spastic cerebral palsy

This is the most common type of cerebral palsy, accounting for approximately 80% of cases. Spastic cerebral palsy results from damage to the pyramidal tract region of the brain. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for controlling muscles in the body.

Types of spastic cerebral palsy:

  • Hypertonia – where increased muscle tone causes muscles to appear stiff.
  • Hypotonia – Where increased muscle tone causes muscles to appear floppy.

In the most severe cases of spastic cerebral palsy the child will suffer from quadriplegia, also referred to as spastic quadriplegia. This is where the child will suffer complete or severe partial loss of both sensation and control of all four limbs.

Symptoms of spastic cerebral palsy:

  • The child’s muscles will be tight and may tighten further over time.
  • The child will display an abnormal walk with legs crossing or making scissor movements and the child walking on their toes. It is also likely that the child’s arms will not swing by their side but be tucked in and or bent at the elbow.
  • The child’s joints will be restricted and unlikely to operate fully.
  • The child’s muscles will be weak and are likely to lack the ability to control and move groups of muscles.

As no two cases of spastic cerebral palsy will be exactly the same, children with the condition will display a combination of the above symptoms to varying degrees of severity.

  • Expert medical negligence solicitors
  • Independently recognised as specialists
  • No win, no fee claims

Athetoid cerebral palsy

This is the second most common form of the condition and again can be separated into two categories:

Athetoid – affecting the child’s limbs.

Dyskinetic – affecting the trunk of the child’s body.

Athetoid cerebral palsy is caused by brain injury to the Basil Ganglia or Cerebellum whilst the brain is still developing. Children with this form of cerebral palsy can display normal learning. Children with Athetoid cerebral palsy are likely to display symptoms consistent with those below but are likely to display each to varying degrees:

Symptoms of Athetoid cerebral palsy

  • Uncontrollable muscle movement.
  • Difficulty in making eye contact with others resulting from difficulty focusing.
  • Difficulty speaking due to being unable to control the tongue and vocal chord.
  • Drooling and difficulty eating, again due to not being able to control muscles in and around the mouth, jaw and tongue.
  • Emotional stress and frustration are likely to be displayed by the child due to the physical symptoms of the condition.


Ataxic cerebral palsy

This is the rarest form of cerebral palsy and is caused by injury to the part of the brain that provides for body movement and coordination.

A child with Ataxic cerebral palsy may display learning not far short of the average child, although some children do display learning difficulties.

Symptoms associated  with ataxic cerebral palsy:

  • Difficulty balancing can lead to the child displaying a wide stance.
  • Weak muscles.
  • The child will often display frustration, brought about by being unable to undertake physical tasks.
Looking or advice?

Has your baby been diagnosed with cerebral palsy?

CALL 0800 083 5500

Read More

Martha's Rule is a new NHS initiative empowering patients and families in critical situations. From April 2024, it will be initially adopted in 100 English Hospitals as part of the nationwide rollout. More
Navigating the legal process of making a medical negligence claim can feel daunting, but understanding its basic structure can empower you and ensure your claim runs smoothly. More
The NHS publishes a wide array of its performance data on a regular basis. This data tracks the performance of the NHS and each trust within it on a variety of different data points. More