Cerebral palsy (CP) is a broad term that includes a group of physical and sometimes cognitive disabilities that interfere with your child’s physical function. It is a lifelong condition that affects communication between your child’s brain and muscles, which can cause trouble with a variety of activities including eating, sitting, walking and using his or her hands.
Children with CP are usually diagnosed in early childhood and, while there is no cure, there are many treatments and therapies available to help your child increase his or her independence.
Types of cerebral palsy
Because CP is such a diverse condition, doctors and therapists have a number of ways to describe or classify children with the disease. One of the most common ways is to describe their movements that are a result of the abnormal communication between their brain and muscles.
Spastic cerebral palsy
The most common type of movement disorder in people with CP is spasticity. Spasticity makes muscles tight. Children with spastic CP have weakness and trouble with coordinating their movements. Spasticity can affect one or more areas of your child’s body and can make the affected muscles difficult to use. If your child has spastic cerebral palsy, his or her treatment program will likely include therapy and bracing and possibly oral or injectable medication. Sometimes children with spastic CP can benefit from surgery such as intrathecal baclofen pump and selective dorsal rhizotomy.
Dystonic cerebral palsy
Your child’s dystonic CP causes twisting postures that can interfere with the use of his/her arms and legs as well eating and speaking. As with all children with CP, those with dystonic CP benefit from physical, occupational and speech therapy. There are oral and injectable medications for dystonia and sometimes intrathecal or intraventricular baclofen is recommended as well.
Ataxic cerebral palsy
Children with ataxic CP experience problems with coordination and balance. This can cause difficulties with walking and arm use. The Children’s team can develop a varied, personalized treatment program, to assist your child gain and maintain the maximum level of independence. This may include physical therapy to increase strengthen, balance and coordination There are no specific medication ataxia but special weighted devices and garments as well as walkers and wheelchairs may be very helpful.
Mixed cerebral palsy
When symptoms of spasticity, ataxia, and/or dystonia appear together in a person with CP, it is called mixed cerebral palsy. Different symptoms may appear with varying degrees of severity. No two children with mixed CP or any other type of CP are alike, so your child's treatment program will be tailored specifically to his or her needs. Treatment may involve physical therapy, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, neuropsychology, medication, braces, equipment or a combination of these and other treatments.
We are active in community events and support for children and families of children with CP and other conditions. You can find out about upcoming events and support services on our Facebook page.
We believe in education for and collaboration with parents, teachers, and other members of the community to help them understand how to care for kids with CP and give them opportunities to lead healthy, active lives.
Support for children and families
Children with cerebral palsy often need help in their daily activities, which can inhibit their social lives and be frustrating for them and for their families. There are many groups available for you and your child both within and outside of Children’s. Contact our office to learn more.