Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

What Are the Developmental Milestones Your Baby Should Reach?

One of the major indicators determining a cerebral palsy diagnosis is your baby’s developmental progress against key milestones.

Major milestones by six months

The average six-month-old baby will:

  • Smile at people
  • Turn head toward sounds
  • Pay attention to faces and begin to track movements with their eyes
  • Hold head up
  • Show greater control with their movements
  • String together vowels when babbling
  • Respond to name
  • Bring objects and food to their mouth
  • Sit without support
  • Roll over in both directions
  • Play with others, especially parents

Major milestones by nine months

The average nine-month-old baby will:

  • Have favorite toys
  • Understand “no”
  • Mimic sounds and gestures
  • Put food in their mouth
  • Move objects with ease from one hand to the other
  • Get into a sitting position
  • Sit without support
  • Crawl

Major milestones by one year

The average one-year-old baby will:

  • Cry when a parent or caregiver leaves
  • Show fear in certain situations
  • Respond to simple spoken requests
  • Try to mimic words, sounds, and gestures
  • Bang objects together
  • Try to stand or to take a few steps without assistance
  • Move to a sitting position without help

If your baby is not able to crawl or stand without support, doesn’t point to objects or say single words like “mama” or “dada,” or if they lose skills they once had it might be time to consult a doctor. Routine baby check-ups are particularly important because healthcare providers will evaluate your baby during each visit and monitor their progress against age-appropriate milestones.

Intellectual Disability

While cerebral palsy is primarily a physical disability, in some cases it may be accompanied by an intellectual disability. Among the most common intellectual disabilities affecting children with cerebral palsy are a below-average IQ, missed or delayed cognitive milestones, and challenges with decision making.

Seizures

Seizures are a common cerebral palsy symptom, affecting nearly one out of every three people diagnosed with the disorder.

Vision Problems

Vision impairment is common among patients with cerebral palsy. As many as 50-90 percent of cerebral palsy diagnoses are accompanied by a vision problem of some sort.

Strabismus is among the most common cerebral palsy-related vision problems. A misalignment of the eyes, strabismus causes one or both eyes to turn inward or outward, up or down, making it difficult to focus on objects. Strabismus is sometimes called “crossed-eyes.”

Hearing Problems

Children with cerebral palsy may also have a greater risk for hearing loss. In a 2018 study conducted by the University of Cincinnati Medical Center of 940 cerebral palsy pediatric patients, 39 percent displayed hearing loss symptoms. 

A possible cause of hearing problems is anoxia, or oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery.

Joint Problems

Joint problems are an especially prevalent symptom for those afflicted by spastic cerebral palsy due to the difficulty in preventing “contracture,” or extreme stiffening of the joints caused by an unequal pull of one muscle over another. If you notice this stiffening occurring, seeking help from a physical therapist or developmental pediatrician may be beneficial.

Symptoms of CP

  • Inability to grasp objects
  • Poor muscular function
  • Favoring one side of the body
  • Spastic or shaky movements
  • Slow and writhing movements
  • Decreased muscle tone and floppy arms
  • Walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait
  • Delays in reaching major motor milestones

Behavior Problems

Some behavior problems may be linked to cerebral palsy. While it is normal for young children to throw the occasional tantrum or cry and yell when they are upset, if misbehavior is frequent or particularly severe it may indicate a behavioral problem. Some research suggests that children with cerebral palsy have a higher risk of developing mood disorders like extreme mood swings, high anxiety levels, temper tantrums, prolonged crying, and social withdrawal.

Is Hypertonia in Infants Synonymous with Cerebral Palsy?

When your child suffers from the condition known as hypertonia, they will have difficulty with flexing and movements, rigid muscles and muscle tension even while resting. Typically, when this condition happens, it happens because the child suffered an injury to their central nervous system. This can happen either during childbirth or even after childbirth depending on the circumstances. In addition, the muscles don’t work right because of how the motor pathways within the central nervous system were damaged. Infant hypertonia can especially prove frustrating because of how it requires prolonged medical care and ongoing therapy for the child to recover correctly.

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Rae S, Editor

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Elena Amato Borrelli, Expert

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Article Citations

  1. Cerebral Palsy Foundation
  2. HealthyChildren.org
  3. CDC
  4. CDC 2 Month Milestones
  5. CDC 4 Month Milestones
  6. Strabismus, Stanford Children's Hospital
  7. BMC Ophthalmology
  8. Study: Hearing Loss in Pediatric Patients With Cerebral Palsy