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Understanding Cerebral Palsy

Athetoid cerebral palsy affects muscle tone, causing it to fluctuate from low to normal and sometimes high. Children often have random involuntary movements of their faces, arms, and upper bodies (and to a lesser extent lower extremities). These children also have difficulty holding their trunks in a steady, upright position and often need external trunk support to maintain balance. For most of these children, it takes a lot of work and concentration to complete tasks. For example, reaching for a toy and getting it in their hand in the correct spot is difficult due to tone fluctuations and involuntary movements. This type of cerebral palsy occurs in approximately 20% of all cases.

Ataxic cerebral palsy affects balance and depth perception. Children with ataxic cerebral palsy have poor coordination of their movements and have tremors or “shakiness” when engaging in fine motor tasks such as writing. Some children with this type of cerebral palsy also have low muscle tone. This is the rarest type of cerebral palsy, occurring in less than 10% of all cases.

Spastic cerebral palsy affects the body with tight muscle movements and exaggerated reflexes. These children often have stiff jerky movements with limited range of motion because of their tight muscles. They may also have trouble moving from one position to another or letting go of something in their hand. This is the most common form of cerebral palsy, occurring in approximately 70% of all cases. About 30% of children with this type of cerebral palsy also have one of the other types referredto above.

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Understanding Cerebral Palsy