Detecting Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy in Infants
A parent or caregiver is usually the first person to notice an infant’s early symptoms of cerebral palsy. At first, a parent may dismiss or repress the idea that anything is truly wrong. Parents often chalk up their child’s missed development milestones to being a “late bloomer.”
However, if you think your child potential has symptoms of cerebral palsy you should contact your doctor immediately. Testing is available to determine cerebral palsy and other development disorders.
In the case of cerebral palsy, the earlier a child is diagnosed and can start treatment, the better.
What Are the Early Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy in Infants?
Cerebral palsy is difficult to detect at birth. Two early indicators of cerebral palsy in infants are abnormal muscle tone or the tendency to favor one side of the body over the other. If your infant seems unusually floppy or limp it could be a sign of hypotonia, meaning reduced muscle tone. If your infant seems excessively rigid or unbendable it could be a sign of hypertonia, meaning increased muscle tone. While typically an infant is affected with either hypertonia or hypotonia, sometimes an infant will endure an early bout of hypotonia only to progress to hypertonia after a few months. Other early symptoms of cerebral palsy in infants involve poor control over mouth muscles. Excessive vomiting, gagging or other feeding problems are sometimes lead to other more advanced cerebral palsy symptoms.
It is difficult to detect cerebral palsy until children start reaching development milestones. However, specific kinds of cerebral palsy do have some early indicators. For example, statistics show 70% of cerebral palsy cases are of a specific type of the disorder called spastic. Early symptoms of spastic cerebral palsy include the drawing in of arms and legs or difficulty in straightening an infant’s limbs. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy, another type of the disorder, can cause infants to writhe involuntarily in an irregular motion.
What Developmental Milestones Should My Infant Reach at What Age?
An infant’s developmental milestones should be closely monitored. While all children develop differently, any deviation from typical development charts should alert a parent to a potential problem. A visit to the doctor will help determine whether a child’s developmental difficulties are a normal variation or an indicator of a developmental disorder.
Cerebral palsy symptoms typically begin to appear in 18 months, as children progress through typical developmental milestones. Infants with cerebral palsy generally show delays in mastering expected motor skills like rolling over, sitting up, smiling or crawling. Infants affected by cerebral palsy are slow to master these skills because of motor impairments. Experts believe the majority of children should reach certain developmental milestones by certain ages.
- Brings hands together – 4 months
- Sits with out support – 6 months
- Crawls – 9 months
- Feeds self with fingers – 9 months
- Hold bottle without a assistance – 12 months
- Walks unassisted – between 12-15 months
- Walks up and down stairs – 24 months
- Localize a sound to the right or left side and turn head towards it – 1 month
- Smile spontaneously – 1 month
- Imitate speech sounds and babble – between 3 and 6 months
- Individual word comprehension – between 6 to 10 months
- Ability to say Mama and Dada – between 5-10 months
If your infant is delayed in achieving any of these milestones you should contact a physician for further testing. While these symptoms do not mean your infant has cerebral palsy, take your child to a qualified physician for testing. The earlier an infant is diagnosed with cerebral palsy the sooner they can begin therapy for the disorder.