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Understanding Cerebral Palsy -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?

The symptoms of cerebral palsy -- or CP -- can vary from light clumsiness to extensive spasticity (uncontrolled contraction of muscles).

Early signs usually appear before the age of 3. Parents are often the first to suspect that their child is not developing motor skills normally or is experiencing developmental delays. Often, babies with CP are slow to reach developmental milestones, such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl, smile, or walk. Some affected children seem rigid or stiff. They also may exhibit an unusual posture or favor one side of their body.

Understanding Cerebral Palsy

Find out more about cerebral palsy:



Diagnosis and Treatment


There are three types of CP:

  • Spastic CP, the most common type, is a disorder in which certain muscles are stiff and weak. The stiffness can occur mainly in the legs (diplegia), only in the arm and leg of the same side (hemiplegia), or in both arms and both legs (quadriplegia). A wide-based, staggering, or "scissors" gait is characteristic of this type.
  • Dyskinetic, or athetotic, CP generally involves impairment of voluntary muscle control. People with this form of CP have incomplete or fragmented motor movements often involving bizarre twisting motions, tremors, or exaggerated posturing (athetosis).
  • Mixed CP is a combination of the above two types.

Call Your Doctor About Cerebral Palsy If:

  • Your infant is feeding (sucking) poorly or is very floppy
  • Your child does not seem to be developing motor skills -- such as rolling over, sitting up, or crawling -- at a normal pace
  • Your child's muscles seem unusually stiff
  • Your child has an unusual posture or seems to favor one side of his or her body

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on March 19, 2015

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