Cerebral Palsy | Overview

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What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (also called CP) is a term for a group of disabilities that affect children in the first few years of life. Children who have CP have trouble controlling their muscles and coordinating body movements. They may have stiff or weak muscles, which can cause them to make unusual muscle movements. Babies who have CP may take longer than usual to start rolling over, sitting up, crawling, smiling or walking.

CP can be mild or severe. A child who has mild CP may have awkward movements but they may require little or no assistance. A child who has severe CP may not be able to walk, may have trouble speaking and may require lifelong care and assistance.

What are different types of CP?

There are 3 types of CP:

  • Spastic CP is the most common form of CP. It causes the muscles to stiffen and makes movement difficult. Spastic CP can affect just one side of the body, both legs or both arms and both legs.
  • Athetotic CP is not as common as Spastic CP. Athetotic CP causes uncontrolled, slow body movements and affects the entire body.
  • Ataxic CP is the least common form of CP. Ataxic CP affects balance and coordination.

Some children will show signs of more than one type of CP. This is referred to as a mixed form of CP.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 07/06

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