What are the Characteristics of Cerebral Palsy in Children?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Cerebral palsy is a series of disorders that affect an individual’s brain and nervous system. The condition is typically caused by an injury to the brain, which can occur before, during, or soon after birth. As the brain is still developing, symptoms of cerebral palsy in children often do not appear until they are two or three, but can surface as soon as three months after birth. Cerebral palsy in children can be classified as spastic, athetoid, ataxic, or mixed. characteristics of cerebral palsy in children include trouble annunciating, mental retardation, vision and hearing disorders, and seizures.

Approximately one out of every 500 births results in cerebral palsy in children. The spastic variety is the most common, occurring in more than 70 percent of children with cerebral palsy. Children with a spastic form of cerebral palsy typically have stiff and weak muscles, which can cause toddlers to walk on their toes, or with one leg swinging over the other. Under this type of cerebral palsy in children, vision may be affected with the occurrence of lazy eye or crossed eyes. Other characteristics associated with this form of cerebral palsy include severe mental retardation, seizures, and difficulty swallowing. Difficulty swallowing can lead to trouble breathing and may eventually lead to damaged lungs.


The athetoid form of cerebral palsy is less common, occurring in approximately 20 percent of children born with cerebral palsy. Children suffering from this type of cerebral palsy will often have spontaneous movement in their limbs and body. Movement may also be erratic and may become more unpredictable when they become excited. Children may also have pronounced difficulty with speech and suffer from nerve deafness.

The ataxic form of cerebral palsy is the least common, affecting nearly five percent of all cerebral palsy births. Children with this condition will suffer from muscle weakness and shaking. Toddlers will walk erratically, often with their legs spread wide apart.

Many children will also suffer from a combination of two of the types of cerebral palsy. Most times children will have the characteristics related to spastic and athetoid cerebral palsy. When children have a combination of two forms of cerebral palsy, they typically will have severe mental retardation.

Toddlers born prematurely should be watched closely to see if they develop characteristics of cerebral palsy. Children with cerebral palsy often have average or above average intelligence. However, their ability to display their intelligence may be hindered due to trouble verbalizing.


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Post 3

@Ana1234 - this is one of the reasons I believe that children with cerebral palsy in school should be mainstreamed with everyone else. It doesn't help them or society in general to have them put into a "special class" where they never get to interact with most of the other children their age.

It's best for everyone that they learn how to get along in the "real world" and that the kids around them learn how to not take someone at face value and how to be inclusive.

Post 2

@irontoenail - Unfortunately, the other reason that number seems high is because often kids with cerebral palsy simply don't make it to adulthood. There are too many things that can go wrong and as much as people love them and try to help them, sometimes there's nothing you can do in the end.

With that said, it is also a very misunderstood disease and I actually wish in some ways that it was classified as several different disorders rather than being put under one banner. Because, as it says in the article, often people with cerebral palsy are very smart, but the public perception of the disease seems to be that it always occurs with mental retardation.

That's a pretty tough prejudice to have to cope with when you're already struggling to get around in a world that isn't really set up for you.

Post 1

I had no idea that the rate of cerebral palsy was so high in the general population. I wonder if it's even higher in developing countries, where it must sometimes be a struggle to give birth without harming your child's brain.

I guess that, since there are various degrees of cerebral palsy, it may not be all that evident in some people and that's why it might not seem that common.

Hopefully cerebral palsy treatment is also getting more advanced, giving them good quality of life.

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