There are four areas that cerebral palsy affects:
Since CP most commonly affects the area of the brain responsible for movement, there are many muscle-related disabilities to look out for.
A few common ones are:
Shaky movements, abnormally stiff or loose muscles, difficulty in grasping small objects, and less movement on one side of the body over the other.
2. General Development
Sometimes along with muscle-related abnormalities, a child may have developmental delays as well.
Some things to look out for are if the child doesn’t roll over by four months, or doesn’t learn to talk by the age of two.
That said, different children hit these milestones at their own ages! Even if they're running a bit late, that doesn’t automatically mean that they are developmentally deficient at all.
Although children with CP often have average to above average intelligence, about one third of children are cognitively impaired. This means that they may trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life.
Some common signs are not learning to talk by the age of two, or not understanding basic grammar by the age of 5.
4. Emotions and Behaviour
Children with CP often have a low self-esteem. They may also have excessive anxiety, mood swings, or temper tantrums.
As such, unless a child’s cerebral palsy is very mild, parents can expect certain differences to exist between children with CP and those without CP. But different isn't a bad word. There is an abundance of therapies and assistive devices out there to help parents and children live fulfilling, fruitful lives together no matter how severe the CP may be.
Generally, signs of cerebral palsy appear within the first few months of a child’s life. However, it’s possible for there not to be a conclusive diagnosis until the child turns two and even older.
Children with CP can show a wide variety of signs, including:
- Stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes
- Delays in reaching essential motor skill milestones, such as rolling over or sitting up
- Abnormal muscle tone - either rigid and stiff or weak and floppy
- Weakness in one arm and/or leg
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Walking on toes or with a crouched gait or scissored gait
- Shaking or other involuntary movements
- And excessive drooling or a difficulty in swallowing or speaking
If you’re concerned that your child may have cerebral palsy, here are a few early signs to look out for:
For children until 6 months of age:
1. The baby’s head may lag when picking him or her up or while lying on his or her back
2. The child may feel especially stiff or floppy
3. Or when picking the baby up, his or her legs stiffen or cross like a scissors.
For children above 6 months of age:
1. The baby may not be rolling over in either direction
2. The baby can’t bring his or her hands together
3. The child may have a hard time bringing his or her hands to his or her mouth.
4. Or the child may only reach out with one hand while keeping the other hand in a fist
For children above 10 months of age:
1. The baby may crawl in a lopsided manner, pushing off with one hand and leg while while dragging the opposite hand and leg
2. Or the baby may not be able to stand without support.