Learning to Spot Cerebral Palsy Symptoms in Your Child
Because cerebral palsy can be caused by brain trauma or oxygen deprivation during birth, it can often go undiagnosed in the first few weeks or months of a baby’s life. This is because, up until the point that the birth injury occurred, the baby was healthy and showed no signs of having any disabilities or congenital conditions that could lead to disabilities.
That’s why, especially after a long and difficult labor or after a case of shoulder dystocia, it’s important to keep an eye on your child so that you can spot any cerebral palsy symptoms. The sooner you can identify these symptoms, the sooner you can seek medical attention and potentially reduce the severity of your child’s disabilities later on in life. So what should you look for?
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy in Infants
You may be concerned that you won’t be able to see the symptoms of cerebral palsy in a young infant because they cannot communicate with you verbally. However, starting from birth to about six months, you can look for a few symptoms in the way your baby moves when lying in their crib or when you hold them.
Look for floppiness or stiffness in their limbs when they’re awake or asleep. When you hold them, look for arching of the back or overextending of the back and neck. If it feels as if they are constantly pushing away from you when you hold them, this could be a sign of cerebral palsy.
Starting at about six months up until one year, your child should be able to roll over in both directions. If they cannot, this could be a symptom. A child with cerebral palsy may also have difficulty or may be unable to bring their hands together or up to their mouth. If you notice that they tend to reach out with one hand while keeping the other balled into a fist, you should also seek help from a doctor.
At one year, a child without cerebral palsy should be crawling easily, beginning to stand with or without support, and/or saying a few words. If your child is having trouble with any or all of these things, it could be a sign of cerebral palsy.
Watch for Developmental Delays
Children with cerebral palsy will generally exhibit both physical and mental developmental delays. Get to know the basic milestones for infants and toddlers, and watch your child in comparison. Some of the delays to look for in particular include:
- At six weeks – inability to smile.
- At four months – inability to roll over without help.
- At six months – inability to sit up without help or support.
- At two years – inability to walk.
- At three years – inability to climb stairs or stand on one foot for several seconds without assistance.
In addition to these physical developmental milestones, watch for cognitive milestones, as well. If your child cannot understand basic language cues and grammar rules by five years (such as the difference between “he” and “she”), it may be a sign of cerebral palsy.
Understanding Your Child’s Symptoms
The symptoms that your child exhibits due to cerebral palsy are not due to any damage to muscles or nerves. Rather, they’re due to paralysis in the brain, which prevents your child’s brain from sending the correct signals to their muscles to move in a controlled manner. Common symptoms of muscle-related disabilities like cerebral palsy include:
- Spastic or shaky movements.
- Muscles becoming extremely loose or extremely stiff.
- Lack of coordination.
- Difficulty controlling specific muscles and body movements.
- Difficulty or inability grasping small objects (watch how your child grips a spoon).
- Letting their legs drag while they use their arms to pull themselves around when crawling.
- Slow or rapid, involuntary movements.
- Lack of control of facial muscles, resulting in drooling.
- Avoiding using one side of the body or the other.
If you’ve noticed any or all of these cerebral palsy symptoms in your child, you should seek medical attention immediately to find out how treatment can help decrease their disabilities and make life easier for you and them. You should also contact a qualified birth injury attorney to find out if you have a medical malpractice case against your doctor, another medical practitioner, or a medical institution. Contact us at Birth Injury Center today for a free consultation.