- Parents Home
- Allergy Center
- Asthma Center
- Cancer Center
- Diabetes Center
- A to Z
- Emotions & Behavior
- First Aid & Safety
- Food Allergy Center
- General Health
- Growth & Development
- Flu Center
- Heart Health
- Helping With Homework
- Diseases & Conditions
- Nutrition & Fitness Center
- Play & Learn Center
- School & Family Life
- Pregnancy & Newborn Center
- Sports Medicine Center
- Doctors & Hospitals
- Para Padres
- Kids Home
- Asthma Center for Kids
- Cancer Center for Kids
- Movies & More
- Diabetes Center for Kids
- Getting Help
- Puberty & Growing Up
- Health Problems of Grown-Ups
- Health Problems
- Homework Center
- How the Body Works
- Illnesses & Injuries
- Nutrition & Fitness Center for Kids
- Recipes & Cooking for Kids
- Staying Healthy
- Stay Safe Center
- Relax & Unwind Center
- Q&A for Kids
- The Heart
- Videos for Kids
- Staying Safe
- Kids' Medical Dictionary
- Para Niños
- Teens Home
- Asthma Center for Teens
- Be Your Best Self
- Cancer Center for Teens
- Diabetes Center for Teens
- Diseases & Conditions (for Teens)
- Drugs & Alcohol
- Expert Answers (Q&A)
- Flu Center for Teens
- Homework Help for Teens
- Infections (for Teens)
- Managing Your Medical Care
- Managing Your Weight
- Nutrition & Fitness Center for Teens
- Recipes for Teens
- Safety & First Aid
- School & Work
- Sexual Health
- Sports Center
- Stress & Coping Center
- Videos for Teens
- Para Adolescentes
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
What Is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy (CP) affects muscle movement and control. People with cerebral palsy have it for life.
Ataxic (ah-TAK-sik) CP is one type of cerebral palsy. Kids with ataxic cerebral palsy have trouble with balance and coordination. They may walk with their legs farther apart than other kids and have a hard time with activities that use small hand movements, like writing. Some also have trouble with depth perception This means being able to accurately judge how close or far away something is.
Other types of cerebral palsy can lead to muscle stiffness (spastic CP) or writhing movements (dyskinetic CP). Some kids have more than one kind of CP, also called “mixed pattern CP.” And sometimes, the type of cerebral palsy a child has can change over time.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is usually the result of a brain injury or problem. In ataxic CP, the brain injury or problem is in a part of the brain called the cerebellum. The cerebellum controls balance and coordinates movements.
A child might be born with CP or develop it later. The brain injury or problem doesn't get worse, but someone with CP may have different needs over time.
Cerebral palsy can be caused by:
- infections or other medical problems during a woman’s pregnancy
- having a stroke while in the womb or after birth
- untreated jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes)
- genetic disorders
- a problem during birth
- being shaken as a baby (shaken baby syndrome)
- injury in early childhood (such as from a car accident)
Premature babies (babies born early) are at higher risk for CP than babies born at full-term. So are low-birthweight babies (even if carried to term) and multiple births, such as twins and triplets.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Ataxic Cerebral Palsy?
Ataxia (ah-TAK-see-uh) means that someone has trouble coordinating muscles to do something. Kids with ataxic cerebral palsy may walk with their feet spread apart, and their walk may look unbalanced or jerky. They might not be able to get their muscles to do other things too, like reach for a fork.
Kids with all types of CP can have vision, hearing, speech, eating, behavior, and learning problems. Some kids have seizures.
How Is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed?
Most children with ataxic cerebral palsy are diagnosed in the first 2 years of life. If a baby is premature or has another health problem that can be associated with CP, this will alert health care providers to start looking for signs of CP.
No single test can diagnose ataxic CP. So health care professionals look at many things, including a child's:
- muscle tone
Testing may include:
- brain MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound
- blood and urine (pee) tests to check for other medical conditions, including genetic conditions
- electroencephalography (EEG) to look at electrical activity in the brain
- electromyography (EMG) to check for muscle weakness
- evaluation of how a child walks and moves
- speech, hearing, and vision testing
How Is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy Treated?
There's no cure for cerebral palsy. But resources and therapies can help kids grow and develop to their greatest potential. The treatment plan may include:
- physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy
- leg braces, a walker, and/or a wheelchair
- medicine for muscle pain or stiffness
- special nutrition to help the child grow
- surgery to improve movement in the legs, ankles, feet, hips, wrists, and arms
Where Can Caregivers Get Help?
Taking care of a child with cerebral palsy can feel overwhelming at times. Not only do kids with CP need a lot of attention at home, they also need to go to many medical appointments and therapies. Don't be afraid to say yes when someone asks, "Can I help?" Your family and friends really do want to be there for you.
To feel less alone and to connect with others who are facing the same challenges, find a local or online support group. You also can get information and support from CP organizations, such as:
Staying strong and healthy is not only good for you, but also for your child and your whole family.
Living with cerebral palsy is different for every child. To help your child move and learn as much as possible, work closely with your care team to develop a treatment plan. Then, as your child grows and their needs change, adjust the plan as needed.
These guides can help as you plan for each stage of childhood and early adulthood:
- Caring for Your Child With Cerebral Palsy (CP): Birth to Age 5
- Caring for Your Child With Cerebral Palsy (CP): Ages 6–12
- Caring for Your Teen With Cerebral Palsy (CP): Age 13 and Up
- Cerebral Palsy: A Parent's Guide (Video)
- Cerebral Palsy: Ira's Story (Video)
- Dietary Needs for Kids With Cerebral Palsy
- Cerebral Palsy: Parents Talk (Video)
- Cerebral Palsy: Shannon's Story (Video)
- Cerebral Palsy (CP) Center
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy
- Cerebral Palsy (CP)
- Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy
- Cerebral Palsy Factsheet (for Schools)
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.