How Cerebral Palsy Is Diagnosed in Children

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doctor evaluating baby's developmental milestonesYou may be worried that your child has cerebral palsy after a difficult labor and delivery, but it may be a few years before a doctor makes a cerebral palsy diagnosis. Often, a diagnosis comes after a child has missed developmental milestones. If you or your child’s doctor think that your child may have cerebral palsy, you may go through several stages of monitoring and testing before a diagnosis is made.

Developmental Monitoring of Infants, Babies, and Toddlers

Developmental monitoring should happen at all pediatrician well-visits regardless of whether or not you suspect cerebral palsy. The doctor will ask you about what your child is doing at home and observe your child. If the doctor has any concerns about whether your child is meeting developmental milestones, the doctor should recommend a developmental screening.

Developmental Screening of Babies and Toddlers

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all children should have developmental screenings during their well-visits at nine months, 18 months, and either 24 or 30 months of age. Screening is a more detailed version of monitoring. During a developmental screening, more questions may be asked, and more time may be spent observing the child. Depending on your child’s age, you may be asked questions about your child’s potential cerebral palsy symptoms and your child’s ability to:

  • Hold up his or her head
  • Sit up independently
  • Crawl
  • Walk
  • Rollover
  • Pick things up

At nine, 18, and 24-30 months of age, fine motor, gross motor, and movement delays may be easily observed, and the next steps may be suggested. For some children, the next step may be further observation and screenings. For other children, the next step may be developmental and medical evaluations. Additionally, many children with developmental delays will qualify for and benefit from Kentucky’s First Steps program.

Developmental Evaluation for Cerebral Palsy

Before making a cerebral palsy diagnosis, your child’s primary care doctor may refer your child to a specialist, such as a:

  • Developmental or neurodevelopmental pediatrician who specializes in child development and diagnosing children with developmental delays
  • Pediatric neurologist who specializes in childhood conditions that affect the brain, spine, or nerves
  • Pediatric physiatrist or rehabilitation doctor who specializes in rehabilitation medicine for children

The specialist may take a detailed history of your child’s development from you and perform observations to evaluate your child’s:

  • Motor skills
  • Muscle tone
  • Reflexes
  • Posture

Specifically, the specialist may want to know about your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and your child’s APGAR scores and results of newborn screenings. Additionally, the specialist may order tests, including:

  • Brain imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI. These tests can rule out other brain conditions that may cause symptoms similar to cerebral palsy or to confirm the cause of cerebral palsy.
  • Genetic tests
  • Metabolic tests
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG). An EEG measures electrical activity in the brain and is used to diagnose epilepsy. Epilepsy may make a cerebral palsy diagnosis more likely.

Other potential causes of your child’s developmental delays and medical conditions may be considered and ruled out before a cerebral palsy diagnosis is made.

What to Do After a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

Your child’s medical journey doesn’t stop with a cerebral palsy diagnosis. Now that you know what is causing your child’s symptoms, you need to get your child the necessary medical care and make sure that your child’s legal rights are protected.

Medical mistakes made during pregnancy, labor, or delivery can cause cerebral palsy. If your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by medical malpractice, your child may have the right to recover damages for past and future medical expenses, rehabilitation therapies, lost income, out-of-pocket costs, physical pain, and emotional suffering.

Our experienced Kentucky cerebral palsy attorneys and law firm nurse are here to help protect you every step of the way. Call us or reach out to us via this website to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation about your child’s rights and possible recovery.

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