What Is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy?

What Is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Balance and coordination are impacted by the developmental condition known as ataxic cerebral palsy. Children suffering from the disease could find it difficult to walk steadily or to carry out precise tasks like writing.

Damage to the cerebellum during infancy or early childhood results in ataxic cerebral palsy. The brain's centre for balance is the cerebellum.

"Ataxic" denotes a lack of coordination or order. "Cerebral" refers to brain-related. "Palsy" refers to muscle weakness or difficulty using the muscles.

The rarest type of cerebral palsy, which is a collection of neurological conditions affecting the control and movement of muscles, is called ataxic cerebral palsy.

This is all the information you need to understand ataxic cerebral palsy, including causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and therapies.

How is ataxic cerebral palsy diagnosed?

By the time they are 2 years old, most kids with cerebral palsy have a diagnosis. However, a diagnosis might not be made for kids with minor symptoms until they are 4 or 5 years old.

If a kid exhibits movement or coordination-related developmental problems, doctors may suspect cerebral palsy. For instance, a parent might see that their infant is taking a long time to learn how to walk or crawl, or that their child moves clumsily or has trouble gripping items.

Healthcare providers assess the child's medical history and monitor their growth and development throughout time at routine visits to diagnose the condition.

Your paediatrician might recommend a paediatric neurologist to your kid if they notice any indications of developmental delays. The expert examines developmental benchmarks about:
  • motor control
  • strength
  • reflexes
  • movements or coordination
  • muscle tone
  • posture
  • face and eye movements
  • Depending on the child's age, their capacity to roll over, sit, crawl, or walk
To evaluate the child's general health, rule out other illnesses, and search for indications of neurological impairment, doctors also prescribe tests. 

Tests may include:
  • MRI or CT scan
  • ultrasound
  • blood and urine tests
  • electroencephalography (EEG)
  • electromyography (EMG)
If a medical practitioner notices cerebellar ataxia, they may diagnose ataxic cerebral palsy. This covers issues with muscular synchronisation as well as actions carried out with unusual vigour, rhythm, or precision.

What are the symptoms of ataxic cerebral palsy?

Infants with cerebral palsy may exhibit delayed rolling over, sitting, crawling, or walking in comparison to typical milestone ages.

In particular, children with ataxic cerebral palsy struggle with:
  • coordination
  • depth perception
  • balance
One of the most typical signs is unsteady walking with feet apart due to imbalance issues. There can seem to be jerky or unstable walking.

Additionally, children may find it challenging to carry out hand and arm movements like reaching for a book or buttoning a blouse.

Additional signs of ataxic cerebral palsy in kids could be:
  • unsteady movements
  • low muscular tone
  • poor coordination
  • slow eye movements
  • hearing and vision problems
  • tremors or uncontrollable motions
  • inability to move quickly or precisely
  • speech problems, such as slurred words or difficulty pronouncing consonants
  • delays in achieving benchmarks for motor skills

How different is it from spastic cerebral palsy?

There are four primary forms of cerebral palsy, each with slightly distinct features that affect movement.

The most uncommon type of cerebral palsy is ataxic cerebral palsy. 5–10% of those with the condition are affected. It involves balance and coordination issues, such as:
  • imprecision
  • instability
  • disorganized and jerky movements
About 80% of individuals with cerebral palsy have spastic cerebral palsy, which is the most prevalent type of the condition. Spasticity is the term used to describe rigid muscles. Individuals who suffer from this illness have:
  • muscle stiffness
  • increased muscle tone
  • uncoordinated movements
Cerebral palsy comes in two different primary forms:
  • dyskinetic cerebral palsy, characterised by erratic hand, arm, foot, and leg motions
  • when a person exhibits symptoms from more than one kind of cerebral palsy, they are said to have mixed cerebral palsy.

What causes ataxic cerebral palsy?

A child's inability to regulate their muscles due to abnormal brain development or brain injury results in cerebral palsy.

Damage to the cerebellum, a region of the brain, causes ataxic cerebral palsy. The cerebellum is in charge of coordination and balance.

Cerebral palsy can be caused by the following:
  • infections or other health issues when a pregnant woman
  • a stroke that happens during pregnancy or just after delivery
  • hereditary disorders causing severe, protracted, or untreated jaundice
  • injuries sustained as a young child, like a car accident
  • complications during childbirth
  • being shaken as a baby
Cerebral palsy may also be caused by additional factors, such as:
  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • multiple births, like triplets or twins
Approximately 85–90% of individuals with cerebral palsy are affected from birth. We refer to this as congenital cerebral palsy.

A tiny proportion of individuals with cerebral palsy suffer damage to their brains or aberrant brain development after more than 28 days of birth. We refer to this as acquired cerebral palsy. It is frequently linked to infections like meningitis or head injuries.

The precise cause of cerebral palsy is frequently unknown.

How is ataxic cerebral palsy treated?

Although there is currently no known cure for cerebral palsy, treatment can help kids manage their uncoordinated movements and enhance their quality of life as they mature.

A child has a higher chance of managing and overcoming developmental difficulties the earlier they start treatment.

If cerebral palsy is diagnosed in your kid, a group of medical specialists will collaborate with you to create a treatment strategy.

Treatments may include:
  • physical therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • recreational therapy
  • speech and language therapy
  • drugs for stiffness or discomfort in the muscles
  • assistance technology, including wheelchairs, walkers, leg braces, and hearing and visual aids
  • surgery to increase the range of motion in the afflicted body parts, like the arms or legs
Children with cerebral palsy can get school-aged assistance and early intervention in the United States under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Visit the cerebral palsy resources page of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to find out more about these programmes.

What’s the outlook for children with ataxic cerebral palsy?

Although cerebral palsy is a permanent disorder, significant disability is not usually the result.

Compared to children with other kinds of cerebral palsy, children with ataxic cerebral palsy usually have less severe motor impairment. They might, however, experience more serious cognitive difficulties.

Certain kids just have moderate cerebral palsy, meaning they don't need assistive technology. Some people could simply experience minor mobility issues, like difficulty walking. In actuality, almost 50% of kids with cerebral palsy can walk on their own.

The life expectancy of children with milder forms of cerebral palsy is average. More severe cases of cerebral palsy in children may necessitate lifelong care or assistive technology, although there are treatments that can help them live better.

Furthermore, cerebral palsy is not a condition that worsens over time. This indicates that it does not worsen with time.

To better understand why brain injury results in cerebral palsy, researchers are putting a lot of effort into finding new causes and contributing factors as well as developing new therapies. Research on neuroimaging, stem cell therapy, and genetics seems promising.


A neurological condition called ataxic cerebral palsy can arise in early childhood or infancy. It results from impairments or anomalies in the development of a region of the brain responsible for regulating movement and balance.

Children who suffer from this illness usually struggle with balance and coordination, making it hard for them to walk or move precisely.

Children with cerebral palsy may have long, active, and happy lives with the support of treatments that help them manage their disability.

A medical expert can evaluate your child's symptoms and underlying causes if you're worried that they may be exhibiting signs of developmental delays.

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