When you notice unusual behaviors or symptoms in your child, it can be alarming. Often, these symptoms might not indicate anything serious, but sometimes they can signal a condition that needs immediate attention. One such condition is cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Recognizing the early signs of cerebral palsy is crucial for providing the appropriate care and treatment. However, these signs can be subtle and easily overlooked. That’s why it’s important to establish a relationship with a primary care physician who can track your child’s development, says Dr. Anita Iroko, a general practitioner.
Let’s delve into the signs of cerebral palsy that Dr. Iroko advises you should be aware of.
On This Page
What Are Some General Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy symptoms can vary widely, but they usually involve issues with movement and coordination. While many symptoms can also occur in children without cerebral palsy, if you notice any of the following signs, it’s important to bring them to your doctor’s attention.
Delayed Developmental Milestones
Children with cerebral palsy often reach developmental milestones such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking later than other children. Keep track of your child’s progress and consult with Dr. Iroko if you notice significant delays.
Variations in Muscle Tone
Babies with cerebral palsy might exhibit either stiff or floppy muscle tone. You might notice they seem to favor one side of their body, or they may cross their legs in a scissor-like movement.
Difficulty with Fine Motor Tasks
As your child grows older, you may notice they struggle with fine motor tasks like grasping toys or using their fingers to manipulate objects. This could be an indication of cerebral palsy.
Issues with Balance and Coordination
Children with cerebral palsy often struggle with balance and coordination. They might have a hard time maintaining a straight posture or could frequently stumble or fall when walking.
Early speech and language development could be delayed in children with cerebral palsy. If your child struggles with speaking or understanding language, it may be worth discussing with your doctor.
Trouble Swallowing or Excessive Drooling
Children with cerebral palsy may experience difficulties with sucking, swallowing, and drooling, especially in the early years. While drooling can be common in many young children, if it’s excessive, it could be a sign of cerebral palsy.
Is it Cerebral Palsy or Something Else?
Dr. Iroko emphasizes that while these symptoms can be associated with cerebral palsy, they can also be linked to other developmental disorders. “That’s why it’s crucial to communicate with your healthcare provider about any symptoms that persist,” says Dr. Iroko.
How Can I Monitor My Child’s Development?
Regular check-ups and open communication with your healthcare provider are key for early detection and intervention. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine developmental surveillance at all well-child visits and standardized developmental screening tests at 9, 18, and 30 months.
When to See Your Doctor
Don’t hesitate to consult with your doctor if you notice anything unusual in your child’s development or behavior. While these signs could be just a normal part of growth, they could also be indicative of a more serious condition like cerebral palsy.
Persistent signs, such as difficulties with motor skills, posture, or coordination, are particularly worth discussing with your doctor. The sooner you voice your concerns, the sooner your doctor can investigate and, if necessary, provide the right intervention.
Examinations and Tests
Your child’s doctor can run various tests to rule out other conditions and confirm a cerebral palsy diagnosis. These tests can include a neurological exam, vision and hearing tests, and an analysis of your child’s motor skills. In some cases, further diagnostic tests, such as an MRI, cranial ultrasound, or EEG, may be required to evaluate your child’s brain activity and structure.