“Cerebral palsy” is a blanket term for a group of conditions resulting from brain damage suffered in the womb, during childbirth, or during the earliest stages of life. The term can apply to a wide range of symptoms with varying levels of severity, and no two people with cerebral palsy will experience the condition the same way.
Due to the complex nature of cerebral palsy, it can be difficult to accurately diagnose and even more challenging to predict the symptoms a child with cerebral palsy will face as he or she ages.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy develops in response to brain damage. The fetal brain is incredibly delicate. Physical trauma, infection, and oxygen deprivation can cause significant brain damage in a very short time. Some children develop cerebral palsy early into pregnancy while others may develop it in response to acute trauma during delivery.
When negligent doctors and other medical professionals cause a child to develop cerebral palsy, the parents may have grounds for legal action to secure compensation for the associated medical expenses.
Most children with cerebral palsy require at least one type of ongoing care while others may need constant supervision and assistance with the most basic everyday tasks. Some children with cerebral palsy have no voluntary muscle control at all.
Identifying Cerebral Palsy Signs in the First Six Months of Life
Most cerebral palsy diagnoses happen within the first 18 months of a child’s life. Severe cerebral palsy is often immediately recognizable; children with cerebral palsy primarily develop musculoskeletal disorders from their brain damage. This may take the form of spastic cerebral palsy, characterized by irregular muscle growth, stiffness, and tightness.
Some children develop athetoid cerebral palsy that interferes with muscle control and often causes involuntary movements. A small percentage of children with cerebral palsy develop ataxic symptoms that cause balance and coordination issues, and about 10% of all children with cerebral palsy have mixed diagnoses entailing symptoms of more than one type of cerebral palsy.
From birth to six months old, the earliest signs of cerebral palsy usually include a baby feeling excessively floppy or stiff when handled. For example, most babies will tuck their heads toward their bodies when lifted off of a surface. If a child’s head seems to lag when someone picks up the child, this could be a sign of musculoskeletal issues from cerebral palsy.
Additionally, some infants with cerebral palsy will cross their legs when raised off a surface and others may show delays in visual alertness. Infants with cerebral palsy often overextend their necks and backs when held in a cradled position as if they are pushing away from whomever is holding them.
Infant Signs of Cerebral Palsy
Some children with cerebral palsy may not display noticeable symptoms until six months of age or later. For example, if a child who is six months or older still cannot seem to roll over to at least one side, this may be a sign of musculoskeletal impairment from cerebral palsy.
Other symptoms common in children ages six months to ten months include difficulty bringing the hands together, difficulty bringing hands to the mouth, or keeping one hand constantly clenched while reaching and grasping with only one hand.
Many children with cerebral palsy also struggle with hearing and vision problems. While some of these issues are often diagnosable during the first few months of life, a child’s hearing or vision difficulties may not become apparent until after six months when he or she should be more active within, and responsive to, his or her environment.
Common Signs of Cerebral Palsy in Toddlers
Some parents may not notice cerebral palsy symptoms until a child is ten months old or older. Usually, the first sign at this stage is difficulty crawling. When most babies learn to crawl they do so almost constantly, and this is normal and necessary for healthy physical development.
Children with cerebral palsy may use only one hand and one leg to crawl, dragging the other hand and leg behind them or scooting on their bottoms instead of crawling. Some children may hop on their knees but will not crawl on all fours as most babies do.
Pediatricians can provide parents with milestone guides that help parents better understand what to expect when it comes to healthy child development.
While milestones are general guidelines, and children who do not have cerebral palsy may experience delays in some areas of development, parents should be vigilant for any significant delays in a child reaching key milestones. Such delays may not only inform a cerebral palsy diagnosis but also help parents prepare for secondary complications from the condition.
Treatment and Long-Term Complications From Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy’s physical symptoms can include muscle stiffness, spasms, and poor muscle control. Inability to use muscles correctly leads to irregular muscular development without consistent physical therapy.
Most children with cerebral palsy undergo physical therapy starting at very young ages and lasting well into adulthood. Many of these children also require occupational therapy, surgical procedures, and treatment for associated conditions like vision problems, autism, and seizure disorders.
If your child developed cerebral palsy due to a doctor’s negligence, the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Law, LLC can help determine your odds of success with a lawsuit against the responsible party. Contact us today to schedule a free case review to learn more about your potential recovery.