About cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect movement and muscle tone or posture. It's caused by damage that occurs to the brain as it develops, most often before birth. UW Health Kids experts offer advanced care and treatment for children, teens and young adults with cerebral palsy.
Types and causes
Cerebral palsy outlined
As your child grows and develops, their brain makes connections with their muscles. These connections help your child balance, move and stand up straight. Damage during brain development can lead to a condition called cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy affects your child’s ability to move.
There are several different types of cerebral palsy, including:
Ataxic: Problems with balance and depth perception
Dyskinetic: Uncontrolled movements
Spastic: Stiffness and difficulty moving
The exact cause of cerebral palsy isn’t always known. But many things can lead to a cerebral palsy diagnosis. These include:
Brain damage in early infancy or early childhood
Brain infections during pregnancy
Medical problems experienced by the mother during pregnancy
Problems during birth
Stroke (before or after birth)
Untreated jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes)
Symptoms and diagnosis
Signs, symptoms and associated health problems
Cerebral palsy most often affects babies born early or those born smaller than expected. Our doctors watch these infants closely for signs of cerebral palsy. We watch for:
Developmental delays, like not reaching for toys or sitting up at the right age
Inability to crawl, walk or move arms and legs as expected
Infant reflexes (such as sucking, startling and grasping) that don’t go away when expected
Signs that muscles are too tight or too loose
The effects of cerebral palsy can range from mild to severe. Damage to larger parts of the brain can affect more than movement. Children with more severe cerebral palsy also might experience:
Blindness or visual impairment
Problems eating and swallowing
Weak or brittle bones (osteoporosis)
Our team conducts half-day clinic visits to fully understand your child’s unique needs. During these visits, we complete a physical exam, review your child’s health history and address any related health concerns .
Treatments and research
Helping your child reach their full potential
There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but it does not get worse over time. Many treatments and therapies can help your child as they grow and develop. These include:
Movement therapies (physical and occupational)
Our team continues to look for new ways to treat the issues associated with cerebral palsy. We partner with experts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the internationally recognized Waisman Center to study hearing loss and speech and language development.
Meet our team
Advocates for you and your child
The UW Health Kids team includes experts in neurology, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and rehabilitation.
Complex care close to you
We offer cerebral palsy care at the Waisman Center in Madison.
Learn through the experience of others
Cerebral palsy won’t stop sports-loving Ira
Ira’s cerebral palsy might have kept him from playing sports, but it couldn’t keep him from loving them. Now in college, and with his own radio program, he’s following his dreams of becoming a sports broadcaster. Watch Ira’s story
Technology gives voice to teen with cerebral palsy
Shannon can’t walk or talk, but she loves going places and gabbing with her friends. Her wheelchair and communication device give her the freedom to do both. Watch Shannon’s story