The term cerebral palsy refers to any of a number of neurological disorders that cause permanent, non-progressive disorder of muscle movement and coordination. However, cerebral palsy is not a deficiency of the muscles or the nerves; it is the result of damage to the brain either during pregnancy or as an infant.
The main feature of cerebral palsy is disorder of movement. It is characterized by abnormal muscle tone, reflexes, motor development, and coordination. Cerebral palsy can be subdivided into three distinct classifications, with a fourth classification for individuals that present with combinations of features from the other categories. These classifications are listed below.
Spastic cerebral palsy is defined by spasticity, or muscle tightness. Data indicates this is the most prevalent type of cerebral palsy, comprising approximately 70% of all cerebral palsy diagnoses. Individuals with this form are hypertonic, that is, they have increased muscle tone and increased resistance of the muscle to passive stretching. They often experience muscle spasms and in some cases clonus, which is abnormal neuromuscular activity involving repeated involuntary contraction and relaxation of a muscle.
Ataxic cerebral palsy is defined by tremor and hypotonia, or low muscle tone. Data indicates this form of cerebral palsy is the least common, being observed in 5-10% of all cerebral palsy cases. Individuals with this form of cerebral palsy often display what is called an intention tremor, a slow, broad tremor of the extremities that occurs at the end of an intentional movement. This tremor typically progresses in severity as movement continues.
Athetoid cerebral palsy is characterized by both hypertonia and hypotonia, and slow, uncontrolled movements of the extremities and trunk. Smaller, more rapid random movements called chorea may also occur. These involuntary movements often become more pronounced during periods of excitement or stress. Individuals with this form of cerebral palsy often have difficulty maintaining posture and balance when sitting, standing, or walking and may have difficulty performing coordinated activities.
Mixed cerebral palsy is the term given to individuals whose cerebral palsy exhibits symptoms of the spastic, ataxic, and athetoid types.
Individuals with any form of cerebral palsy commonly have cognitive, communicative, visual, and behavioral difficulties as well. Approximately one in four individuals with cerebral palsy also has epilepsy.
Social Security Medical Listing 11.07 – Cerebral Palsy
Medical Listing 11.07 of the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments addresses cerebral palsy. The listing directs for a finding of disabled in cases where IQ testing reveals a valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 70 or less. It also directs for a finding of disabled if you’re found to have abnormal behavior patterns or significant interference in communication due to speech, hearing, or visual defect. The listing also directs for a finding of disabled if you have significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities that results in the sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station.
Your representative can help you determine whether your cerebral palsy is severe enough for you to qualify for disability under the Social Security Administration.