Cerebral Palsy: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Cerebral Palsy

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a muscle disorder that affects movement, balance, muscle tone, motor skills,and posture. It is the most common motor disability found in children, and is caused by abnormal brain development or brain damage that affects the brain’s ability to control muscle movement. This brain damage usually occurs before or during birth, or during the first 3 to 5 years of a child’s life.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary from mild to severe. More severe cases may see people who need equipment and assistance to live their lives, while someone with a more mild case may be able to walk and generally take care of themselves. Symptoms may change, but cerebral palsy does not get worse over time, as it is caused by damage to the brain, and not something degenerative.

Cerebral palsy can cause problems with bodily functions that involve muscle coordination, including breathing, bladder and bowel control, eating, and talking. In addition to muscle problems, cerebral palsy may also affect intellectual abilities, cause seizures, and cause vision, hearing, and speech problems.

Cerebral palsy has no cure, but a child’s quality of life can improve with physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are four main types of cerebral palsy: spastic cerebral palsy, dyskinetic cerebral palsy, ataxic cerebral palsy, and mixed cerebral palsy. The type of cerebral palsy depends on which areas of the brain are damaged, and depending on the severity of the damage. Differences in these factors can lead to one or more movement disorders. The three main movement disorders are spasticity (stiff muscles), dyskinesia (uncontrolled movements), and ataxia (poor balance and coordination). Depending on which of these disorders are present, cerebral palsy can be categorized into the four main types: 

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type, affecting about 80% of people with cerebral palsy. This type causes muscle stiffness due to increased muscle tone. People with spastic cerebral palsy generally move awkwardly. It can present in different ways, affecting only the legs, only one side of the body, or the entire body, including all four limbs, the torso, and the face. 

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy 

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy causes problems with controlling movement in arms, legs, hands, and feet. Uncontrolled movements can be slow or rapid, but in either case, it causes difficulty with walking and basic motor skills. If facial muscles are affected, it can cause difficulties with speaking and eating as well. While people with spastic cerebral palsy have increased muscle tone, people with dyskinetic cerebral palsy have varying muscle tone which can change over the course of a single day. 

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy 

Ataxic cerebral palsy causes problems with coordination and balance. This can cause issues with walking, as well as with more fine motor skills like writing. 

Mixed Cerebral Palsy 

Mixed cerebral palsy is any combination of more than one of the other types. It is not uncommon for people to have symptoms that align with two or even all three of the other types of cerebral palsy, with spastic-dyskinetic being the most common.

Symptoms & Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is most often caused by brain damage during or right after birth. Signs of cerebral palsy will therefore generally show up fairly early in a child’s life. However, signs may vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. The most common sign to look for is the delay in motor development and related milestones, such as rolling over, sitting, standing, and walking. Other signs to look for include: 

0-6 Months 

  • Body feels stiff 
  • Body feels weak and floppy 
  • When picked up, the baby’s legs get stiff and cross 
  • Overextends back and neck when being held, as if they are pushing you away 

6-10 Months

  • Unable to roll over
  • Unable to bring hands together
  • Unable to bring hands to mouth
  • Keeps one hand in a fist 

10 Months and Older

  • Difficulty crawling, often in an uneven manner 
  • Does not crawl on all fours 


It’s important to monitor and notice if any of these signs appear with your child, but diagnosing cerebral palsy involves many steps. This includes tracking your child’s growth and development, as well as having developmental screenings and evaluations done with your doctor.

Cerebral Palsy Treatment Options

Cerebral palsy has no cure, as it is caused by irreparable brain damage. However, there are interventions which can improve quality of life. The earlier you begin treatment, the better off you will be. Treatment options may include physical, occupational, and speech therapies, medication, and surgical interventions. Which option you go with will vary from case to case and from person to person. It’s best to consult with your child’s doctor before deciding on a course of action.

Cerebral Palsy Treatment with Mind & Motion

Mind & Motion offers pediatric physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and has specialists with expertise in treating children with cerebral palsy. We’ll conduct a thorough evaluation to determine the best treatment plan for your child, and then start them on the path toward feeling better and living with a better quality of life. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help you and your child feel better.