Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in childhood, and children with CP and their families need support.
Learn more about CP and what signs to look for in young children:
- Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.
- CP is the most common motor disability of childhood. About 1 in 323 children have been identified with CP according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.
- CP is more common among boys than girls, and more common among black children than among white children.
- Most (about 77%) children with CP have spastic CP. This means that their muscles are stiff, and as a result, their movements can be awkward.
- Over half (about 58%) of children with CP can walk independently.
Most CP is related to brain damage that happened before or during birth and is called congenital CP. Some of the factors that increase the risk for congenital CP are:
- Being born too small
- Being born too early
- Being born a twin or other multiple birth
- Being conceived by in vitro fertilization or other assisted reproductive technology
- Having a mother who had an infection during pregnancy
- Having kernicterus (a type of brain damage that can happen when severe newborn jaundice goes untreated)
- Having complications during birth
Early Signs of Cerebral Palsy
From birth to 5 years of age, a child should reach movement goals―also known as milestones―such as rolling over, sitting up, standing, and walking. A delay in reaching these movement milestones could be a sign of CP. The following are some other signs of possible CP. It is important to note that some children without CP also might have some of these signs.
In a baby 3 to 6 months of age:
- Head falls back when picked up while lying on back
- Feels stiff
- Feels floppy
- Seems to overextend back and neck when cradled in someone’s arms
- Legs get stiff and cross or scissor when picked up
In a baby older than 6 months of age:
- Doesn’t roll over in either direction
- Cannot bring hands together
- Has difficulty bringing hands to mouth
- Reaches out with only one hand while keeping the other fisted
In a baby older than 10 months of age:
- Crawls in a lopsided manner, pushing off with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg
- Scoots around on buttocks or hops on knees, but does not crawl on all fours