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How is cerebral palsy diagnosed?

As a parent, it can be stressful and heartbreaking to wonder if your baby might have a disability like cerebral palsy. If your child has some known risk factors for cerebral palsy or is exhibiting developmental delays, you may wonder how you can help your child.

Although there is not a cure for cerebral palsy, there are treatment options available to help improve the lives of those affected by cerebral palsy. If you are concerned that your child may have cerebral palsy, it is important to share those concerns with your child's doctor. Receiving a diagnosis early can help your child receive appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

The signs of cerebral palsy can vary

There are four main types of cerebral palsy, including spastic cerebral palsy, dyskinetic cerebral palsy, ataxic cerebral palsy and mixed cerebral palsy. The signs of cerebral palsy can vary based on the type and severity of cerebral palsy that someone has.

A child less than 6 months old may feel stiff or floppy if he or she has cerebral palsy. Also, a child's head may lag or legs may scissor when he or she is picked up. A child older than 6 months may not roll over or bring his or her hands together. The child may also reach out with only one hand, while keeping the other fisted.

Diagnosis often begins with developmental monitoring

The process of diagnosing your child with cerebral palsy can include several steps. The first step is usually developmental monitoring, which involves a doctor monitoring your child's development over time. Although doctors monitor the development of all children, it can be especially important to make sure a doctor monitors your child if your child has certain risk factors.

Risk factors can include being born prematurely or having a low birth weight. Birth complications, infections during pregnancy and the mother having certain medical conditions can also be risk factors.

Developmental screening can determine if a child has developmental delays

Developmental screening tests should be performed for all children at 9 months, 18 months and 24 or 30 months. However, if a doctor sees reason for concern, your child can receive a developmental screening right away.

This test can be an interview or questionnaire given to the parents or a short test given to your child. Ultimately, the goal of developmental screening is to determine if your child has developmental delays.

Developmental and medical evaluations

If the developmental screening indicates your child may have a developmental delay, your child will be referred to a professional who can perform an evaluation to determine what specific disorder affects your child and give the final diagnosis.

The doctor may examine your child's motor skills, reflexes, posture and muscle tone. If your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, additional tests may be required to try to determine the cause.

It may be appropriate to seek justice if it is determined that your child has cerebral palsy because of the care provided or not provided by medical professionals. A medical malpractice lawsuit may be able to help ease some of the financial burdens caused by the disorder, while helping to prevent a similar incident from happening to another family.

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