About Cerebral Palsy :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

About Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy, or CP, is a condition that causes movement difficulties. It results from an injury to the brain that occurs before the child is born, during delivery, or shortly after birth. Often times, there is no known reason for the brain injury. The extent of the difficulty can range from mild to severe. It is not progressive, so the child’s condition does not worsen. 

CP is a relatively common diagnosis. According to the CDC, there are about 10,000 babies born each year in the U.S. who have CP. There is no cure; however, there are many treatments and resources that can greatly assist your child and ensure he/she achieves his/her full potential.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

The diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy is not a determination of how your child will progress developmentally or what other difficulties he/she might experience. Many children with CP have learning difficulties and can be at risk for seizures. Again, though, not all children with CP have these difficulties. There are 3 main types of CP:

  1. Spastic CP: This is the most common form of CP. It is a term that describes the high muscle tone or tightness that many children with CP develop in their arms and legs. This can make movements awkward and more difficult.
  2. Athetoid CP: This form of CP affects the movement of the entire body. The child has low muscle tone which makes it difficult to control the movements of the body. This makes it difficult for the child to sit and walk straight.
  3. Mixed CP: This is a combination of the first two types. Children will have a mixture of high and low muscle tone to different parts of their body.

It is important to understand that “muscle tone” is not the same as “strength”.  Muscle tone has to do with the body’s readiness to move, not how strong or weak your child is. Many parents also question if their child is being “lazy”. Again, development occurs when the connections are made between the brain and the muscles, which then allows the child to develop a particular skill.

There are other terms you will hear that help describe the type of CP your child has. They include:

  • Diplegia: Only the legs are affected.
  • Hemiplegia: Half the body is affected (right or left side).
  • Quadriplegia: The arms and legs on both sides of the body are affected. This can also include the torso and facial muscles.


Whenever the brain receives some form of trauma, there can be an increased risk of seizures. Seizures are when there is abnormal activity in the brain that impairs functioning. When someone experiences numerous seizures over time, they are usually diagnosed with “Epilepsy” or “Seizure Disorder”. There are instances where someone may experience a seizure related to an isolated incident (such as a high fever or a minor traumatic injury). Having one seizure does not mean you have Epilepsy.

About 2 million Americans have Epilepsy, and a significant portion of these are children and adolescents. Anytime there is an injury to the brain, there is an increased risk that seizures will occur in that area. Again, not all children with CP develop seizures but it is important to be aware of the signs so that you can make your health professional aware if you become concerned.

Signs and Symptoms of Seizures:

  • Staring episodes or periods of unresponsiveness
  • Involuntary movements of the arms and/or legs
  • “Fainting” with loss of bladder control or sleepiness afterwards
  • Odd sounds or strange speech
  • Periods of being confused

Experiencing any of the above symptoms does not automatically mean that your child has Epilepsy. Also, every person’s seizures can appear differently and the above list is not meant to include every symptom. It is important, though, if you notice any of these signs or other odd behaviors with your child that you bring it to your physician’s attention.

Physician Referral Information

Nationwide Children's Hospital
700 Children's Drive Columbus, Ohio 43205 614.722.2000