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Every child progresses at a different pace. While some delays during early childhood will correct themselves as a child grows up, missing important milestones may indicate an underlying neurological or movement disorder.
A lack of physical development is one of the first signs that a child may have cerebral palsy.
If parents are concerned that their child isn’t crawling, walking or talking when they should, this may be a sign of something more serious. Parents should seek out the help of doctors and specialists who can monitor a child’s development and form a diagnosis.
Children’s developmental progress is separated into 4 main categories:
Some children may experience delays related to physical growth, while others take longer to interact socially or emotionally. All children are unique – however, knowing what is considered to be normal development will help parents recognize any issues and take action quickly.
“Normal stages of development” refers to a general pattern of physical, emotional, intellectual and social milestones that most children follow. These stages are determined based on the average progress of all children.
It’s important to note that developmental milestones are not all-encompassing. Some children will achieve a benchmark earlier or later than expected, but still be within the normal range. The best way to conclude if your child is on track with their development is by consulting with your pediatrician.
Normal development for this age range is defined when a child:
Usually, parents and caregivers can detect delays in their child’s development by comparing their progress to the stages of normal development. If a child appears to be lagging in any areas of development, especially motor function, this may be a symptom of cerebral palsy.
Recognizing the signs of cerebral palsy can lead to an earlier diagnosis if a condition exists. Most children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy around 18 months of age.
The most distinguishing signs of cerebral palsy include:
Cases of mild cerebral palsy take the longest to diagnose because signs and symptoms don’t become apparent until the child gets a little older — usually during preschool years. While the ages from birth to three years require the most observation, parents should stay vigilant if they notice other children outpace their child’s development.
Catching signs of delayed development can lead to an early CP diagnosis. Parents who suspect that their child has a developmental motor disorder should see a doctor as soon as possible.
The earlier CP is diagnosed, the faster treatment can begin — which increases the likelihood of improving the child’s long-term quality of life.
Parents should seek out a pediatrician who is:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children receive developmental screenings at 9, 18 and 24-30 months of age. If your child is showing signs of abnormal development, these screenings may become more frequent. Children who are screened for potential CP often see other specialists, such as a neurologist.
Diagnosing cerebral palsy can be a long and frustrating process for parents. Finding a pediatric specialist that you can trust is one of the first steps towards receiving a proper diagnosis and treatment method.
To learn more about the various signs of cerebral palsy, try downloading our free Cerebral Palsy Guide. This guide includes over 60 pages of in-depth information for children and parents of a child with CP.
Kimberlee is a writer and researcher who is passionate about helping children with disabilities enjoy a happy, healthy life. She works closely with our attorneys to create content that educates the families and caretakers of children with cerebral palsy.