Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to the brain that results in impaired muscle movement and coordination. Most children who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy were born with the condition, though there are instances in which the condition develops as a result of an injury suffered during or shortly after birth. In either case, cerebral palsy is not always immediately diagnosed, in part because of the limited mobility that occurs naturally in babies.
However, symptoms of cerebral palsy become more evident as a child grows and not all children will display the same signs and symptoms of the condition. Symptoms often depend on the type and severity of the cerebral palsy. The most common types of cerebral palsy include:
- Spastic cerebral palsy: Most children diagnosed with cerebral palsy have this form of the condition. Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by muscle spasms and stiffness that impair movement of the limbs. Sometimes only the limbs on one side of the body are affected, but in some instances, all four limbs may be impaired.
- Athetoid cerebral palsy: This type of cerebral palsy causes abnormal movements such as twisting, jerking and slow, uncontrolled, writhing movements.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy: A rare form of the condition, ataxic cerebral palsy makes balance and coordination difficult.
- Mixed cerebral palsy: Children with mixed cerebral palsy may display signs and symptoms of more than one type of the condition.
Is Your Child Displaying Cerebral Palsy Symptoms?
Developmental delay is the one of the main symptoms of cerebral palsy. Important developmental milestones occur in infancy and early childhood, and children who are delayed in reaching these milestones should be seen by a physician.
Signs that your child is experiencing developmental delays include:
- Difficulty controlling head movements after 2 months
- Dragging one side of the body while crawling or inability to sit by him/herself after 10 months
- Inability to crawl or stand with support after 1 year
- Inability to walk after 2 years
- The persistence of infantile reflexes such as sucking after they should have disappeared
Additional cerebral palsy symptoms parents should look for in their child include:
- Abnormal muscle tone such as overly stiff or rigid muscles (hypertonia), or excessively flaccid or relaxed muscles (hypotonia)
- Unusual posture due to muscle impairment on one side of the body.
- Early hand preference, which doesn’t usually occur until after 12 months but often occurs earlier in children with cerebral palsy
- Limited range of motion in joints