Signs & Symptoms of CP

The signs of cerebral palsy usually appear in the early months of life, although specific diagnosis may be delayed until age two years or later. Infants with CP frequently have developmental delay, in which they are slow to reach developmental milestones such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl, or walk. Some infants with CP have abnormal muscle tone. Decreased muscle tone (hypotonia) can make them appear relaxed, even floppy. Increased muscle tone (hypertonia) can make them seem stiff or rigid. In some cases, an early period of hypotonia will progress to hypertonia after the first 2 to 3 months of life. Children with CP may also have unusual posture or favor one side of the body when they reach, crawl, or move. It is important to note that some children without CP also might have some of these signs.

Some early warning signs:

There are four main types of cerebral palsy

Other conditions are associated with cerebral palsy

Going back to the classroom scenario presented in the Introduction, let's think about what type of cerebral palsy Mary has.

She walked up to the blackboard in an inclusive classroom setting, with a slight limp because of a slight hemiparesis of her right leg. Because her right arm is significantly impaired from the CP, she writes her spelling words with her left hand. The writing is slow and deliberate because Mary does have some underlying learning disabilities. When she reads the words aloud, Mary follows her speech and language pathologist's advice to speak slowly and enunciate carefully, to minimize her oral-motor impairments. She also turns her head slightly to the side to compensate for a visual field defect. Except for a seizure disorder that is well-controlled with anticonvulsant medications, Mary's medical history is unremarkable and she is able to ride the bus and play with her friends. Mary has spastic hemiplegic cerebral palsy.

Juan Carlos, on the other hand, uses a specially-fitted wheelchair and wrist splints to compensate for the low tone in his trunk, as well as his limb spasticity. With his severe cognitive impairments, Juan Carlos requires a highly-modified curriculum and significant accommodations in his special day classroom. Because of his tracheostomy, gastrostomy, and seizure disorder, he requires the services of a one-on-one health aide at school. Juan Carlos displays the classic characteristics of spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

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