Movement Disorders Program

Compassionate and multidisciplinary care for children with genetic and acquired movement disorders.

Son with movement disorder with mom in therapy
Son with movement disorder with mom in therapy

The Movement Disorders Program at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital offers multidisciplinary evaluation, treatment and support for children with movement disorders including chorea, cerebral palsy, dystonia, spasticity, tremor, tics and ballismus/hemiballismus.

What Are Movement Disorders?

Pediatric movement disorders can come in many forms and with a variety of symptoms. It can sometimes be difficult for parents to determine if their child has a movement disorder or is just moving in a way that is natural for children.

Common symptoms of movement disorders can affect many different parts of the body, including the arms and legs, hands and fingers, feet and toes, head and neck or even the face and voice. They can include symptoms such as:

  • Twitches, spasms, shaking or other repetitive or uncontrolled movements
  • Stiffness in the limbs or waist
  • Trouble walking or a noticeable change in gait
  • Coordination and balance problems
  • Trouble speaking, writing or swallowing

If any of these symptoms seem to be unusual or persistent in your child, then it might be a sign of a movement disorder. It’s worth a visit with your primary care provider to see if a referral to a specialist in the Movement Disorders Program might be warranted.

Types of Movement Disorders

A wide variety of movement disorders can impact children. That’s why it’s important to meet with a specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. In most cases, the source of movement disorders is related to damage or malfunction in the parts of the brain that control movement, such as the primary motor cortex or basal ganglia. These disorders can take many different forms, however, and cause different symptoms as a result.

Some of the most common types of movement disorders include the following:

  • Ataxia. This type of movement disorder is often characterized by limb movements, problems with speech and balance problems. Ataxia impacts the part of the brain that controls coordinated movement.
  • Dystonia. This movement disorder typically includes repetitive muscle contractions that appear as twisting or other sustained involuntary movements. This may affect one body part of multiple areas of the body.
  • Chorea. Chorea is characterized by rapid, irregular and involuntary movements. It may impact the limbs, face or trunk. Chorea is frequently a symptom of other movement disorders.

These are just a handful of the many different types of movement disorders that can impact children.

The Importance of Early Detection

With movement disorders, early diagnosis and treatment is critical. Movement disorders can often be complex and appear similarly to other conditions, so diagnosis can sometimes take time. Starting that process as early as possible is key to success.

What’s more, many movement disorders can lead to developmental delays or complications for the child over time. Getting an accurate diagnosis and starting treatment early on is important for producing the best outcomes possible for your child. Many forms of movement disorders are treatable with things like medication, physical therapy, occupational therapy and other methods. Even for the movement disorders that cannot be cured, the child can have better outcomes when their symptoms are managed by our specialists in the Movement Disorders Program.

A Multidisciplinary Team of Specialists

The program brings together an entire team of pediatric specialists to consult in the diagnosis and management of each child during monthly collaborative clinics. This team approach simplifies the care journey for families, enabling them to consult with all needed specialists during a single clinic visit and benefit from the collective assessment of the entire team. The specialty team includes physicians in the following pediatric specialties:

  • Neurology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Othopedics
  • Psychology
  • Physiatry
  • Rehabilitation


Treatments and Procedures

  • Oral Medications
  • Palliative Rhizotomy

Treatments and Procedures

Conditions We Treat

featured patient photo.
featured patient photo.

Stories to Inspire

Kyrie was born prematurely at only 24 weeks and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler. Life keeps getting better for Kyrie after a life-changing surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital that has enabled him to do things his parents never before thought possible, such as swimming and horseback riding. He is now walking independently and continues to show his fighting spirit.
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