The signs of cerebral palsy in infants are quite variable because they are dependent on the type and severity of a patient's cerebral palsy. Generally, they include developmental delays, abnormal movements, and unusual floppiness or rigidity. These symptoms usually develop before three years of age and are most noticeable to the parents. A medical evaluation can be conducted for a baby displaying signs of cerebral palsy to see if the baby has this condition and to learn more about the specific type the patient has.
In cerebral palsy, changes to the brain affect movement and may lead to intellectual disability. Causes can include problems with fetal development, difficult labor, and brain damage in the first weeks of life. One of the hallmark signs of cerebral palsy in infants is failure to reach developmental milestones like turning over, crawling, sitting, and walking. The infant may also display asymmetrical movements, moving one side of the body more easily than the other. The baby may also have generally poor coordination, doing things like reaching one arm up instead of both to be picked up, or having trouble crawling and walking.
Other signs of cerebral palsy in infants include high levels of lethargy and fussiness, as well as poor feeding. Babies with poor muscle coordination can have trouble latching onto the breast or bottle and may dribble or lose interest in feeding. Babies can also seem unusually floppy and may have trouble supporting their heads, or they can exhibit rigidity, with very stiff limbs and rigid movements.
Sometimes, the signs of cerebral palsy in infants are very clear and easy to spot shortly after birth. Infants with severe cerebral palsy can show clear indicators of brain damage. In very mild cases, a baby may seem relatively healthy for several years, with small tell-tale signs of cerebral palsy that lead to a diagnosis when added together. Identifying cerebral palsy in infants allows them to receive early treatment and may result in better outcomes.
There are a number of treatments available for people with cerebral palsy. Physical therapy, assistive devices, and mentoring with an educator trained to work with people who have intellectual disabilities can potentially be beneficial for people with various types of cerebral palsy. Many people with this condition achieve a high degree of personal independence and programs providing support services focus on identifying specific needs or barriers and addressing them so patients can succeed. It is important to be aware that cerebral palsy comes in many forms, and a full and thorough evaluation is needed for every patient to learn more about the specific case and to develop an appropriate treatment and support plan.