Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability to occur in childhood. “Motor” means that it affects a person’s ability to move. It can also affect the ability to maintain posture and balance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cerebral palsy can range from mild to severe. Though it does not get worse over time, a person with cerebral palsy has it for a lifetime.
Cerebral palsy occurs in infants; 85% to 90% of cases are congenital. This means that the condition is present at birth. Brain damage before or during birth results in congenital cerebral palsy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, possible causes of congenital cerebral palsy include lack of oxygen during birth, infant or maternal infections, fetal stroke or bleeding into the brain.
Symptoms of cerebral palsy fall into one of three categories:
- Ataxia: Poor coordination or balance
- Dyskinesia: Uncontrollable movements
- Spasticity: Stiff muscles
Regardless of what category they fall into, symptoms of cerebral palsy can vary based on the baby’s age.
Cerebral palsy typically causes a child to miss developmental milestones or to delay them after most children have already reached them. For example, a baby may not be able to roll over at six months of age or, at 10 months, may scoot around on knees or buttocks rather than crawl.
Doctors usually keep track of developmental milestones and may order screenings and additional evaluations if children are not reaching them. Parents can help by reporting any concerns they have about their children’s development to their pediatrician.