Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Ataxic cerebral palsy is the rarest form of cerebral palsy. Damage to the cerebellum—the part of the brain that controls movement, balance, and coordination—can cause a child to develop ataxic cerebral palsy. Early interventions, including medication and rehabilitative and occupational therapies, can help those with ataxic cerebral palsy lead independent and fulfilling lives.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

Each type of cerebral palsy has symptoms that are more prominent than in other types. Difficulty with movement, balance, and coordination are the most common symptoms of ataxic cerebral palsy. These may include the following:

  • An unbalanced gait, with the feet spread further apart than normal
  • Difficulty with tasks that require fine motor skills, such as writing
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty with quick movements and grasping objects
  • Poor depth perception

Other symptoms that are associated with ataxic cerebral palsy include:

  • Scanning speech, which is abnormal pauses between syllables and words
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Seizures
  • Slow eye movements
  • Hearing loss

Diagnosing Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

If you notice that your child is presenting any of the symptoms listed above and/or if they are missing important developmental milestones, you should seek guidance from your child’s pediatrician. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests regular developmental screenings during wellness checkups, particularly at nine, 18, and 30 months. During these visits, any early symptoms of balance and coordination delay or complications should be charted and monitored to remain proactive in determining a possible ataxic cerebral palsy diagnosis.

In addition to observational monitoring, there are imaging, blood, and motor skills tests that can help determine an ataxic cerebral palsy diagnosis.

Imaging tests can detect seizure disorders and may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT), or an electroencephalogram (EEG). In addition, a blood test for ataxic cerebral palsy may detect genetic causes of the condition.

A 2020 study in the medical journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology shows several motor skills tests that help diagnose cerebral palsy in children. Those tests include timed up and down stairs performance, shuttle run and sprint ability, muscle power, and functional strength execution. These tests and other screenings can determine a possible ataxic cerebral palsy diagnosis. The timing of a diagnosis is essential to early intervention and providing someone with the best possible treatment for their condition.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors

Ataxic cerebral palsy is a condition that can be congenital (a condition that forms before birth and may be caused by genetic or non-genetic factors) or it may be caused by an avoidable birth injury.

There are several risk factors for ataxic cerebral palsy. These include:

  • Low birth weight caused by premature birth and/or multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Maternal infections during pregnancy
  • Untreated jaundice
  • Blood incompatibility (particularly of the Rh protein) between mother and infant
  • Decreased or loss of oxygen to the baby’s brain before or during birth
  • Placental failure
  • Head trauma during or after birth
  • Fetal stroke that causes bleeding in the brain

Sometimes a medical professional may fail to take reasonable steps to prevent a possible birth injury. Some examples of medical errors that may result in an ataxic cerebral palsy diagnosis are:

  • Failure to perform a cesarean section in a timely manner
  • Using excessive force when assisting a baby through the birth canal using forceps and vacuums
  • Failure to detect and treat for Rh incompatibility
  • Failure to treat jaundice
  • Failure to treat maternal infections during pregnancy

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy Treatment

Professionals who may help to treat ataxic cerebral palsy and its symptoms include pediatricians; pediatric neurologists and surgeons; occupational, physical, and speech therapists; and audiologists.

Medical professionals will prescribe different types of treatment that specifically treat the ataxic type of cerebral palsy. These may include a combination of the following:

  • Assistive devices: including mobility aids (leg braces, walkers, standers, and wheelchairs) orthotics, communication aids, adaptive dressing aids, and more
  • Occupational therapy: used to help build and improve daily skills necessary to live more independently, such as dressing oneself, brushing teeth, using assistive devices, and more
  • Physical therapy: used to help improve balance, posture, and reflexes, as well as strengthen muscles that may not be used regularly
  • Speech therapy: helps people with cerebral palsy articulate and communicate better as well as address difficulty swallowing when eating and drinking
  • Medications: muscle relaxants can help reduce tremors in people with ataxic cerebral palsy and anti-seizure medications can help reduce seizures in cases of an associated epilepsy diagnosis
  • Surgical procedures: used to assist and improve movement, surgery can help improve flexibility as well as reduce uncontrollable tremors. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is one emerging treatment method used to help regulate movement and stop signals from the brain that cause tremors

How Can an Ataxic Cerebral Palsy Lawyer Help My Child?

There is much to consider when a child is diagnosed with ataxic cerebral palsy, including early intervention, caregiving, insurance, and more for a secure future. For these reasons and more, it is important to determine how ataxic cerebral palsy was acquired. If your child’s condition was caused by a medical professional’s mistake during pregnancy, labor, or delivery, you may qualify for birth injury compensation.

Eligibility to file a birth injury claim depends on several factors, including state statute limitations, proof of causation, and evidence of damages, all of which Justpoint’s network of attorneys is well-equipped to determine. If we believe medical malpractice compensation is possible in your case, Justpoint will connect you with the right legal team.

Justpoint’s network of attorneys from top U.S. law firms are available to help investigate and review medical records to see if a medical error may have occurred and determine the different types of medical malpractice damages available for ataxic cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence.

Justpoint’s contingency plan frees families of any financial burden during a claim for compensation. A lawyer’s fee is only paid after winning a medical malpractice lawsuit. Just like the timing of an ataxic cerebral palsy diagnosis is critical, so is contacting Justpoint to determine whether you qualify to have your family’s case reviewed by an expert medical malpractice lawyer. Finding evidence of malpractice and obtaining compensation with a lawyer’s help can help ensure your child has access to the treatment and support they need to live their best life, so waste no time reaching out to our team.

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