Factors to Assist Families Making Diagnosis of Cp

Many parents of children with cerebral palsy (CP) will tell you they knew something was wrong even before receiving a diagnosis from a physician. A parent’s intuition is often correct when it comes to neurological conditions and physical disabilities. Knowing the most common symptoms of cerebral palsy can help parents facilitate a faster diagnosis, and help children receive important early intervention treatments and therapies.

Developmental Progress

One of the greatest factors in making a cerebral palsy diagnosis is the pace at which an infant is developing. Missing common development milestones, such as talking, crawling, and walking, is a common sign of cerebral palsy. Pay attention to how quickly or slowly your child achieves developmental milestones.

Although a missed milestone does not always mean a disability, it is a good reason to talk to your pediatrician about potential problems. Oftentimes, it is not until after 12 months a physician makes a CP diagnosis, to give time to evaluate a child’s development. Since there are many types of CP, developmental delays can take many forms.

Muscle Tone

The motor function disability of cerebral palsy most greatly affects a child’s muscle development. Some types of CP cause overly strong muscles, along with issues such as too much tension or spasticity. Other types cause muscle weakness, with signs such as children being unable to lift their heads. Assess your child’s muscle tone as he or she grows. Signs of abnormal muscle tone can include:

  • Abnormal posture
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Involuntary or repetitive movements
  • Muscle spasms
  • Decreased functional abilities
  • Floppiness, or hypotonia
  • Delayed motor development
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Poor balance or depth perception

Some muscle-related disabilities are obvious in newborns, while others may take months or years to exhibit signs. For example, if a newborn constantly cranes his or her head, such as to strain away from the parent, this could be a sign of cerebral palsy. Keep an eye on muscle movement and development, and see a doctor for any signs of something unusual.

Oral Motor Dysfunctions

Another common factor used in diagnosing cerebral palsy is a child’s ability to feed and talk. Feeding dysfunctions can arise early in development, with issues such as the inability to suck on a pacifier or swallow food. The baby’s oral muscles may be too weak or too tight to allow for easy feeding. Consistent coughing or choking on liquids could be a sign of an oral motor dysfunction.

As the child gets older, speech delays or impediments could point to cerebral palsy. Learning to speak late or not speaking at all could be signs of CP, as can speech impediments, problems communicating, and difficulty managing saliva. A speech issue alone may not mean cerebral palsy – nor may more than one factor. A medical valuation is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

Birth Complications

Aside from physical and verbal signs in the infant, the presence of birth complications or other risk factors during pregnancy and delivery are the most accurate determining factors in a cerebral palsy diagnosis. Birth injuries are one of the causes of cerebral palsy. If you experienced a difficult birth, the odds of your child having cerebral palsy could be higher. A difficult birth could be one that involved:

  • Premature delivery or low birthweight
  • Detachment of the placenta during delivery
  • Maternal infections during pregnancy
  • Traumatic injuries from a car accident or other incident during pregnancy
  • Birth complications, such as umbilical cord prolapse
  • Lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain
  • Signs of fetal distress during labor and delivery
  • Improper use of birth-assisting tools, such as forceps or a vacuum
  • Severe jaundice after birth
  • A negligent physician, staff, hospital, or birth center

A difficult birth can increase the odds of the infant suffering issues with brain development – potentially causing cerebral palsy. If a doctor fails to notice CP risk factors or assist a birth without adhering to accepted standards of care, that doctor could be liable for the baby’s motor function disability.

Determining if Your Child Has Cerebral Palsy

The signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary substantially from child to child. Some children show greater evidence of CP in their body movements, while others present more in their cognitive functions. Some may show signs right away, while others have worsening symptoms over time. The age of your child, type of cerebral palsy, and severity of the disability can all determine how easy it is to diagnose CP.

As soon as you notice any possible signs of cerebral palsy in your baby, take your suspicions to your doctor. Note, however, that it may be months before your physician gives an official diagnosis. Since CP symptoms can resemble many other diseases and conditions, most doctors take their time in making a diagnosis. It is up to parents to review their legal rights immediately after receiving a cerebral palsy diagnosis. The family could be eligible for compensation through a medical malpractice birth injury claim.