Children with cerebral palsy tend to develop life skills and reach milestones more slowly because of their motor impairments, as this condition is caused by brain damage before, during or shortly after birth. The signs of cerebral palsy are not usually noticeable at birth.
Delays in reaching milestones are usually the first signs of the condition however children progress at different rates and slow beginning accomplishment can be followed by normal development. However as a parent it is important to know what the developmental milestones are.
After 2 months, your child should be able to hold the head up. By 4 months old, your child should be able to lift the head up unsupported, hold and shake an object such as a small toy, and bring the hand to the mouth. After 6 months, your child should be able to sit well unsupported, be able to ‘babble’ and roll over. By 9 months, your child should be able to crawl and finger feed. After 12 months your child should be able to walk alone and be able to speak more than a few words. After 24 months your child should be able to walk up and down steps, turn pages in books, remove shoes and socks and the like.
The effects of cerebral palsy are wide ranging. Not all children with cerebral palsy will have cognitive impairments. These children may reach the typical milestones but not others which aren’t as noticeable. For example, after 2 months, your child should react to faces (such as by smiling) and follow movements with the eyes. By 4 months, your child should respond to affection, recognise you or other people, and demonstrate emotions. By 6 months of age, your child should be able to observe things nearby, such as watch television, and respond to their own name. By 12 months, your child should be able to point at objects, show fear and follow very simple directions.
Babies with more severe cases of cerebral palsy (such as quadriplegic CP) are usually diagnosed earlier than others. However, usually it is when the child is 3 to 5 years old, once it is recognised that they are not meeting milestones. If developmental delays persist, speak to your paediatrician. They will be able to evaluate your child. It may be that a neurologist (a physician who specialises in the nervous system and its disorders) will be needed to perform a more thorough examination. Other healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists and psychologists can improve your child’s development as well.