What Is Cerebral Palsy and Signs Your Child Has It?

If your child moves in particular ways that do not seem normal for his age, you might worry that he could have cerebral palsy (CP). CP is a disorder that affects the way that individuals control their movements and muscles.

This disorder is due to the underdevelopment of the brain areas that govern the quality of muscle and movement. Infants born prematurely are at great risk of cerebral palsy as their brains might not have had time to develop completely.

When the damage to the brain takes place during or after birth, parents are strongly urged to get a proper guide to cerebral palsy care. More often than not, the cause of cerebral palsy is unknown. For instance, CP can happen when the mother is exposed to particular viruses during pregnancy, the brain of the child does not develop properly or when the child gets a serious brain infection after birth.

The signs of cerebral palsy may vary depending on the types of CP. For instance:

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – Children with this type of cerebral palsy have unsteady and shaky movements known as tremors. They have problems with balance. To stay balanced, they may walk with feet far apart.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy – Children with this kind of cerebral palsy have a lot of repetitive and involuntary twisting movements. These movements may involve any muscle group and can be exaggerated when children do things such as talking or reaching for a cup. This type of movement makes it hard for children to stand, sit, grasp or reach.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy – Children with this type of cerebral palsy have tight and stiff muscles. This happens because the messages from their brains to the muscles cannot get through clearly.

Most children with cerebral palsy have a combination of two or more of these types of cerebral palsy.

Signs of Cerebral Palsy

Every case of cerebral palsy shows a different set of signs, making it difficult to generalize diagnoses. Moreover, children develop the condition at different, individual rates so that tracking developmental milestones does not always point to a clear diagnosis.

Clinical observation, case history, and certain signs that are observable in every context are all essential factors diagnosing cerebral palsy. These same procedures can also help you determine ways how to grow with your child with cerebral palsy.

Some of the most common signs of cerebral palsy can be identified when examining a child’s reflexes, muscle tone, posture, oral motor functions, and fine motor functions.


One indication of cerebral palsy is particularly abnormal reflexes. For instance, hyperreflexia is actually excessive reflex responses that cause spasticity and twitching. Another sign of cerebral palsy is underdeveloped or lack of protective and postural reflexes.

Muscle Tone

Good muscle tone enables limbs to contract and bend without difficulty, allowing a person to stand, sit, and keep posture without assistance. Poor muscle tone happens when the muscles don’t coordinate together.

Cerebral palsy can impede coordination and movement when muscles that work in pairs such as triceps and biceps relax or contract at the same time. The trunk muscles could relax too much, which makes it hard to keep a tight core that may result in an inability to move or to sit. This can lead to impaired posture.

Children with cerebral palsy may show a combination of such signs. Different limbs can be affected by various impairments. Hypertonia and hypotonia are common signs of improper muscle tone. Hypertonia is rigid or stiff limbs and hypotonia is floppy or flaccid limbs.


Balance and posture are affected by cerebral palsy. Signs may appear as your child starts to move or sit. While the normal posture is symmetrical, a child with cerebral palsy will display asymmetrical posture and the left and right limbs won’t be balanced, or won’t mirror each other.

Oral Motor Function

The term “impaired oral motor function” refers to a difficulty in using the tongue, jaw, and lips. This is a sign that can be present in most preschool children with cerebral palsy. Some signs of impaired oral motor function include drooling, difficulty in swallowing, speaking, chewing or feeding.

Fine Motor Function

The term “fine motor function” refers to the ability to execute any precise movement. Basically, fine motor control includes activities that are learned and often involve a combination of both physical and mental skills to master. One possible indicator of cerebral palsy is delayed or impaired fine motor skills such as when you observe an inability or difficulty to do a certain movement.


It is important to note that cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that requires management that will change often along with the growth of your child. If you are observing signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy in your child, it’s crucial to talk with your child’s pediatrician as soon as you can, get an early diagnosis, and identify possible treatments suited for your child’s needs. Prompt attention can have an effect on treatment results.