Types of Cerebral Palsy

Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are four sub-types of cerebral palsy.  The type of CP that a person has depends on the part of their brain that has been affected, and can have varying degrees of impact over the control of movement

Spastic cerebral palsy (spasticity)

Spasticity causes the muscles to become tight and stiff, making movement difficult. This is the most common sub-type of CP. 

People with spastic CP have at least two of the following:

  •  an abnormal pattern of posture and/or movement,
  •  increased muscle tone, and
  •  exaggerated or increased reflexes.

Spastic CP has traditionally been divided into:

  • Hemiplegia: only one side of the body is affected.
  • Diplegia: the legs are mainly affected, with the arms slightly or not affected.
  • Quadriplegia: the trunk, arms and legs on both sides of the body are affected.

Ataxic cerebral palsy (ataxia)

People with ataxia have difficulty with their balance and coordination. 

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy (dyskinesia)

People with dyskinetic CP may have an abnormal pattern of posture and/or movement (often referred to as dystonia) or involuntary, uncontrolled, recurring movements. Some individuals have both dystonia and choreo-athetosis.


Many people do not have just one type but a mixture of several of the above types of cerebral palsy

What other difficulties are seen in people with cerebral palsy?

People with cerebral palsy often have other associated difficulties. These can include:

  • Vision impairment or impairment in visual perception
  • Hearing impairment
  • Speech impairment, or sometimes an inability to speak
  • Difficulties with chewing and swallowing
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Constipation or urinary and/or faecal incontinence
  • Reduced respiratory capacity and frequent chest infections
  • Epilepsy
  • Intellectual disability
  • Learning difficulties
  • Scoliosis
  • Weight problems (being underweight or overweight)
  • Pain

It should never be assumed that people with CP are unintelligent because they have physical limitations. Intellectual ability is not the same as muscle control. Some people with CP do have an intellectual disability as well as CP. But others, including many of those with hardly any body movement and little or no speech, have quick and perceptive minds. Given special means of access to electronic devices, they can become proficient at communicating and using computers.

Cerebral palsy affects the body differently from one person to another. Certain words are used to describe the parts of the body that are affected: 

Hemiplegia: affects the leg and arm on one side of the body

Diplegia: affects both legs and arms but legs are significantly more affected than the arms.

Quadriplegia: affects both arms and legs and can affect muscles in the trunk, mouth and face.

Ability Centre aims to work with individuals and families to address any and all issues associated with CP and other disabilities through a wide range of services and support.