Signs of Cerebral Palsy

cerebral palsy signsDo have concerns that your child is slightly “different” when comparing to other children his or her age?  Has your child exhibited behaviors or mannerisms which seem out of place, giving you a sense something is not right. Perhaps, your family or friends have mentioned certain movements or actions that seem a little “off.”

Keep in mind infants, toddlers and children typically reach mental and physical milestones based on various factors, including age and gender. However, the deviation in reaching a developmental milestone do not automatically indicate a medical problem. Children may have unique characteristics which can naturally alter the pace of development.  If your son or daughter looks, talks or acts a little different, try to remain positive, not jumping to the conclusion there is something “wrong” with your child.

Cerebral palsy (abbreviated CP) symptoms may vary depending on the the specific type of CP. Take your time to read through the types of cerebral palsy and the associated symptoms. However, before continuing, you should note that the content on this site is not intended to serve as a medical resource. This site’s purpose is to provide general guide on CP. Even if certain gestures, postures or words described within the site’s content, which appear to match symptoms your child exhibits, only a medical professional is qualified to diagnose this condition.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

80% of all CP cases can be classified as Spastic CP. This is the most common type. “Spastic” is the term that describes muscle being unusually tense.

One or more of the following symptoms may affect a person with spastic CP:

  • Abnormal Gate – Walking on toes or in an abnormal fashion, such as with knees touching or crossing, walking in a scissor-like motion, or arms tucked in very tight to sides.
  • Joint contracture –Joints may be very tight and will not open all the way in a normal range of motion
  • Nearsightedness – Near sightedness or crossed eyes may result from weak eye muscles
  • Paralysis – Loss of muscle strength may inhibit movement to the point of barely moving or not moving at all.
  • Rigid Movement – Movement may be in a rigid fashion, much like a jackknife that closes suddenly when forced. Sometimes a person may be able to overcome this with force.

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

About 10% of all people with cerebral palsy are affected by dyskensia, another name for Athetoid cerebral palsy.  Athetosis is the clinical term describing slow uncontrolled movements of the limbs and extremities.

Check these additional symptoms if you believe your child may have Athetoid CP:

  • Facial Movements – Difficulty speaking or eating may be caused by involuntary facial movements.
  • Loss of control of tongue and mouth – Causes slurred speech, drooling or involuntary grimacing and/or difficulty swallowing.
  • Low muscle tone – Causes difficultly maintaining proper posture when sitting or walking.
  • Uncontrolled facial, limb, and extremity movements – This can be intensified during times of emotional distress and may disappear during sleep

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

10% of all CP cases result from damage to the cerebellum and are categorized as Ataxic CP. Coordination and balance are controlled by the region of the brain in the cerebellum. Most symptoms of Ataxic CP will involve movement.

Check these symptoms if you believe your child may have Ataxic CP:

  • Appearing unsteady – Constantly struggling with maintaining a steady posture or difficulty standing or walking with perfect posture, due to low muscle tone.
  • Cognitive and emotional challenges – Difficulty planning, recalling recent information or remembering the order of information.  May have higher levels of anxiety, irritability and depression.  (The cerebellum is associated with proper cognitive and mood function, though not fully understood at this point.)
  • Speech and swallowing challenges – Slow or slurred speech and difficulty swallowing.
  • Tremors – When at rest, hand may experience slight tremors and the tremors will increase significantly when a person reaches for an object.  This is the defining symptom for Ataxic CP.
  • Unusually high fatigue – An increased need to concentrate intensely to coordinate and control movements results in an increased level of fatigue.
  • Visual disturbances – Blurred or double vision may be present in addition to possible difficultly shifting attention from one object to another.
  • Wide gate – Walking with feet unusually far apart in an attempt to compensate for struggling with sense of balance.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

Sometimes people can experience symptoms from more than one or all three types of cerebral palsy. The most common mixed of symptoms involve both spastic and athetoid CP and usually affects two limbs. Athetosis and ataxia are the least common combination of symptoms for mixed CP.

Additional Signs Your Child May Have Cerebral Palsy:

  • Your infant seems unusually rigid or stiff. Or perhaps the opposite, unusually relaxed, loose or even floppy.
  • Your baby seems slow to smile, sit, crawl or walk.
  • Your baby has difficulty maintaining correct posture.
  • Your baby has unusual hand motions or movements appearing to be involuntary. He or she is not able to control drooling.
  • Your baby retains the use of the Moro reflex beyond 6 months of age. The Moro reflex happens with you hold your baby on his or her back and tilt the legs above the head. The baby responds by moving his or her arms as if ready for a hug.
  • Your toddler develops a hand preference much earlier than usual.
  • Age-appropriate motor tasks requiring coordination of the fingers are difficult, such as buttoning shirts, writing, and cutting with scissors.

Early detection of cerebral palsy is important. The long-term outcome for an individual will be better with early detection.  A final determination must be made by a doctor as to whether or not your child has CP.

If you have identified one or more symptoms described in your child, talk to your doctor.

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