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What are the early signs that a child may have cerebral palsy?

The signs of cerebral palsy usually appear in the early months of life, although specific diagnosis is usually delayed until later. Parents are often the first to suspect that their baby’s motor skills aren’t developing normally.

Infants with cerebral palsy frequently have developmental delay, in which they are slow to reach developmental milestones such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl, smile, or walk. Some infants with cerebral palsy have abnormal muscle tone as infants.

Decreased muscle tone (hypotonia) can make them appear relaxed, even floppy. Increased muscle tone (hypertonia) can make them seem stiff or rigid. In some cases, an early period of hypotonia will progress to hypertonia after the first 2 to 3 months of life. Children with cerebral palsy may also have unusual posture or favor one side of the body when they move.

Parents who are concerned about their baby’s development for any reason should contact their pediatrician. A doctor can determine the difference between a normal lag in development and a delay that could indicate cerebral palsy.


Sources: From National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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