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Signs of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a very diverse and complex condition because it does not have a clear-cut single cause. While Down syndrome, for example, has a specific cause, which is an identifiable chromosomal disorder, cerebral palsy can have a variety of possible causes.

Cerebral palsy is a general term for a wide range of cerebral disorders, which result in poor motor skills, or brain-to-muscle communication. Injuries to the brain prior to three years of age, including the prenatal period, result in neurological impairments and motor skill problems, and are cause to look for signs of cerebral palsy.

Early signs of cerebral palsy are usually not noticeable at birth. As children develop during the first 18 months of life they progress through a predictable set of milestones. A child with cerebral palsy will develop these skills more slowly because of their motor impairments. This delay in reaching these first milestones is one of the first signs of cerebral palsy.

Here are several developmental milestones that can be used to gauge a child’s development. If child has not reached a milestone by the age in parentheses it could be one of several signs of cerebral palsy:

A baby should be able to sit up well and unsupported by the time it reaches 6 months of age. (8-10 months)

Around the 9-month mark the baby should be able to crawl, in addition to finger feeding and holding a bottle. (12 months)

At the 12-month mark the child should be able to walk alone as well as use one or two words other than mama/dada. (15-18 months)

At the 24-month mark the child should be able to walk up and down steps as well as turn pages in books and remove shoes and socks. (24-36 months)

In addition, children do not tend to favor one hand over the other until about 18 months of age, and doing so may be a sign that the child has difficulty using one hand over the other. This same preference may also show up in an asymmetric crawling effort or the use of one leg for the work of stair climbing after the age of three.

Children do progress at somewhat different rates and there are also other reasons for delay in reaching milestones such as hearing and vision problems. Additional physical signs of cerebral palsy can be rigid muscles, abnormal posture, and involuntary movements, muscles without tone, and impaired balance and coordination. Proper diagnosis of cerebral palsy is possible through a team of healthcare professionals and a thorough analysis of mother and child’s medical history.

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