Movement disorders in childhood

Mariam Hull MD (

Dr. Hull of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Robert Fekete MD, editor. (

Dr. Fekete of New York Medical College received consultation fees from Acadia, Acorda, Adamas, Amneal/Impax, Kyowa Kirin, Lundbeck, Neurocrine, and Teva.

Originally released August 27, 2005; last updated April 25, 2020; expires April 25, 2023


Childhood movement disorders are a diverse group of neurologic conditions manifested by an excess of abnormal or involuntary movements (hyperkinesias), a paucity of movement, or other disorders of motor control (eg, ataxia). Diagnosis and treatment rest on recognition of the primary phenomenology of the movements. The author has categorized the principal childhood movement disorders based on phenomenology. Once phenomenology has been identified, treatment can be initiated and differential etiology can be narrowed. In this article, the most common causes of each category of movement disorders will be expounded. Pediatric movement disorders is a rapidly developing area of medicine with many recent genetic advances and an ever-expanding understanding of clinical phenotypes and pathophysiology of the previously described entities. Advances include identification of the genetic basis, expansion of the known clinical phenotypes of many of the genetic dystonias, choreas, and ataxias, and knowledge about the natural history and treatment of NMDA receptor encephalitis. The scope of this article is to give a general overview of movement disorders affecting the pediatric population. Individual conditions are often discussed in more detail in other MedLink Neurology articles. Relevant review references are also provided.

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