Brain, Nervous System and Mental Conditions

Cerebral Palsy and Spasticity Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy and Spasticity

Parents often are the first to notice the early signs of cerebral palsy, which usually appear before a child is 2 or 3 years old. They may notice that their babies are slow to reach certain developmental milestones, including:

  • Rolling over
  • Sitting up
  • Crawling
  • Walking

Babies with CP may also have difficulty feeding.

Babies with cerebral palsy may have less muscle tone than others their age. This may make them seem floppy. Other babies with CP may have more muscle tone, which makes them seem stiff. Both of these conditions make feeding difficult.

Cerebral Palsy and Spasticity Diagnosis

First, your child's doctor will most likely schedule an appointment to observe your child's motor skills. The doctor will ask you about your child's development and medical history.

The doctor will look for signs of cerebral palsy, including slow development, abnormal muscle tone and stiff or floppy posture. Then the doctor may schedule several imaging tests to help rule out other disorders and look for the changes in the brain that are typical of cerebral palsy. These tests include:

  • CT (computed tomography) scan to look for areas of damage in the brain
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to see the brain's structure
  • Cranial ultrasound, which shows the brains structure. It is often used with babies born early because it is less intrusive than other tests.

After testing, your child's doctor may ask you to see other specialists. These may include a specialist in the central nervous system (neurologist), an eye doctor (ophthalmologist), an ear doctor (otologist) or a doctor who specializes in children's development (developmental pediatrician). These doctors can help confirm a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. They can also help plan for your child's treatment.