The first signs
Most children are born with cerebral palsy or acquire it as a baby so the way their muscles, posture and movement are affected begins to show in the first 12-18 months of life.
A wide variety of symptoms
Children sharing the same type of cerebral palsy may display similar characteristics. Here is a list of symptoms relevant to all three types of cerebral palsy (but not necessarily present in all people.)
- Tightness of the muscles
- Floppy muscle tone
- Jerky, chaotic movements
- Delays in reaching motor milestones
- Delayed growth
- Spinal deformities and osteoarthritis
- Excessive drooling or difficulties swallowing, feeding or speaking.
- Unusual movement patters (Such as fisted hands, or stiff pointed ankles as if walking on tip toe.)
- Balance and co-ordination problems.
A child with cerebral palsy isn’t just learning to grow like all children, they are also learning to cope with an arm or a leg that isn’t doing exactly what it should. This explains why children with cerebral palsy are often late to hit expected development milestones such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl or walk.
Here are some of the signs that may be noticeable in the first 18 months.
Evidence of delayed motor skills
IN A BABY YOUNGER THAN 6 MONTHS OF AGE
· The head droops when you pick them up while they’re lying on their back.
· They feel stiff.
· They feel floppy.
· When you pick them up their legs get stiff and can cross or scissor.
IN A BABY OLDER THAN 6 MONTHS OF AGE
· They don’t roll over in either direction.
· They can’t bring their hands together.
· They have difficulty bringing their hands to their mouth.
· They reach out with only one hand while keeping the other fisted.
IN A BABY OLDER THAN 10 MONTHS OF AGE
· They crawl in a lopsided manner, pushing off with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg.
· They cannot stand without holding onto support.
Reproduced with kind permission from The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, USA.