Cerebral Palsy is caused by an impairment in the area of the brain that controls muscle tone and movement. It is usually caused by damage to the brain during pregnancy, the delivery or immediately after birth of the child although the cause of the damage is usually unknown. There are varying degrees of motor disability, depending on which extremities of the body are located.
Signs of cerebral palsy in children can be detected as early as in infancy. Specific things can be observed in the baby. If you see any of the signs below, notify your pediatrician right away.
Here’s how to test infant motor skills to detect cerebral palsy.
- For babies over two months old, observe if his head lags when you pick him up from a lying down position. He may seem like a rag doll because he feels floppy. Observe the position of his legs when he is picked up. Do his legs get stiff then rest in a scissor position?
- When holding your baby in the cradle position, observe if seems to be pushing away from you by overextending his back and neck. You baby may also seem stiff.
- Perform a moro reflex text. When your baby is held on his back, hold his legs so that it is positioned over his head. Babies should normally extend their arms as if to embrace their legs. Babies will do this up to about six months of age. However, babies with cerebral palsy tend to keep this reflex past six months of age.
- Perform a hand preference test. If your baby is over six months of age, see if he reaches for you using only one hand. His other hand will tend to be balled into a fist. Normal babies will extend both hands when trying to reach for you or will use either hand. You may also test for hand preference by showing an object in front of your baby and see which one he will constantly use to reach for it. A baby with cerebral palsy will keep using the same hand even if the object he wants to get is closer to his other hand.
- If your baby is over ten months, observe how he crawls. Does he only use one hand and drag the opposite size of his body? A baby will cerebral palsy will not crawl on all fours. Instead, he will use his buttocks to move around.
- When your child starts to walk, observe his toes. Does he constantly walk around on his toes?
It is difficult to diagnose cerebral palsy in infancy. Several tests may be done, including MRI ant CT scans. If you notice you child is not reaching his developmental milestones properly, don’t panic. It may just be that he is a late bloomer.
In the event that you child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, don’t despair. There are resources available, such as different therapies and access to special education.