Cerebral palsy (CP) occurs when the brain is damaged or abnormally formed during crucial developmental stages. Medical professionals classify CP into three groups based on the type of movement disorder exhibited by the child: ataxic, dyskinetic, and spastic.
The type of CP diagnosis depends on the area of the brain that has been injured.
Ataxic cerebral palsy results from damage to the cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that receives information from the sensory systems, the spinal cord, and other parts of the brain and uses that information to regulate motor movement. The cerebellum is also responsible for voluntary movements, including fine motor skills.
Ataxia means “without order” or “lack of coordination” and refers to movements that appear to be clumsy, imprecise, or unstable. Frequently, children with ataxic cerebral palsy have a difficult time balancing and may exhibit jerky, uncoordinated movements. Ataxia can also affect a child’s depth perception.
Ataxic cerebral palsy can affect any part of the body and commonly affects a child’s ability to perform daily tasks. The nature of the difficulties a child with ataxic cerebral palsy faces depends on the area of the body affected:
• Upper extremities – When ataxia affects the upper extremities, such as the arms and hands, a child may exhibit shakiness as they attempt to correct inaccurate or unstable movements. Children with ataxia in the hands often have a difficult time in school due to writing difficulties.
• Lower extremities – When ataxic cerebral palsy targets the legs, walking can be difficult, so children adopt a wide stance to compensate for their instability. In older children and adults, ataxia of the legs may cause the person to appear intoxicated.
• Facial muscles – When ataxia affects the face, children may notice an impact on their ability to speak and may need to adjust their vision from one object to the next. Sometimes, children speak in a monotone voice while taking unusual pauses between syllables. Children may also have trouble swallowing.
While ataxic cerebral palsy is the least common form of CP, its effects on a child’s life can be devastating. Parents of children with any type of CP should consult an experienced birth injury attorney to discuss pursuing a medical malpractice claim.
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