Potential Signs of Cerebral Palsy in 13-16-Month-Olds

Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

Toddler attempting to walk with help of dad

Doctors typically diagnose children with cerebral palsy at around 2 years of age. However, in some cases, parents may notice several clues suggesting their child has cerebral palsy well before their second birthday. As children develop, the signs of cerebral palsy typically become more pronounced. Learn more about some of the potential signs of cerebral palsy in 13- to 16-month-old toddlers.

Motor Skill Problems

Children typically become more mobile and adventurous after their first birthday. They use their motor skills to get around and explore the environment around them. However, some children engage in less physical activity. This may be a sign of muscle problems or developmental delays that accompany cerebral palsy. For example, a 15-month-old with cerebral palsy is unlikely to walk while most other children their age will. Watch for the following potential signs of cerebral palsy in your child:

  • Reluctant or struggling to pull themselves up on furniture
  • Reluctant or struggling to move on feet, either unaccompanied or with the support of parents, walker toys or furniture
  • Bunny hopping or scooting on their bottom rather than transitioning to walking
  • Not climbing up or down stairs
  • Not climbing on furniture
  • Reaching for items with just one predominant hand, especially if the other hand is closer
  • Difficulty squatting to retrieve a dropped object
  • Not picking up and exploring small objects
  • Not picking up objects and passing them to others
  • Not using simple tools, like spoons for feeding
  • Not drinking from a cup or spilling drinks excessively
  • Not moving arms and legs to make dressing or undressing easier
  • Difficulty mimicking the gestures other people make

Verbal Problems

Children usually expand and refine their vocabularies from 13 to 16 months. They learn many new words and start speaking more clearly. A child who misses key verbal milestones between 13 to 16 months may have cerebral palsy. Look for the following verbal problems in your child:

  • Has a very small vocabulary of five words or less
  • Does not say and recognize their own name
  • Difficulty pairing words with gestures, such as shaking their head while saying “no” or waving while saying “bye”
  • Difficulty mimicking other people demonstrating sounds of words
  • Babbling rather than using recognizable words

Lack of Response

Most 13- to 16-month-old children are highly engaged with the world around them. Failing to engage with people, objects and the environment may be a sign of cerebral palsy. Here some basic signs to watch for:

  • Not pointing at people and objects they like or want
  • Uninterested in exploring toys or the environment, even with a parent or caregiver close by
  • Uninterested in playing alone, even with a parent or caregiver close by
  • Not role-playing simple tasks, like being a parent feeding a doll or speaking to someone on a toy telephone
  • Uninterested in being read to
  • Not responding or complying with simple one-step requests, such as “pick up that toy,” unless they include a gesture
  • Not looking for hidden or absent things, even when prompted with questions like “Where is your ball?”
  • Unable to point to parts of their own body, such as their nose or their belly
  • Not responding to familiar faces or own reflection in a mirror
  • Not demanding of time or attention
  • Not crying or throwing tantrums
  • A tendency to show fear around strangers and affection toward familiar people
  • Not noticing or caring if a parent or caregiver leaves or returns


Children typically build on their skills, becoming more physically adept, more verbal, and more engaged over time. Not progressing along a typical timeline might be a sign of the brain development problems that cause cerebral palsy. You should see your doctor if your child:

  • Stops speaking or using words they were already familiar with
  • Regresses back to babbling after speaking words clearly or stops verbalizing completely
  • Starts crawling to move around when they were already walking
  • Stops being mobile after they were walking or crawling
  • Stops recognizing or interacting with familiar people and things

Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy

If your child is slow to reach several major milestones that occur around 13 to 16 months, talk with your pediatrician, especially if you experienced complications during pregnancy or birth. They might recommend observing your child over an extended period of time to measure developmental progress. They could also perform a developmental screening, which measures your child’s skills and development. Getting a diagnosis as early as possible can give you a head start in developing a care plan for your child.

If your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, you can take several steps to ensure they receive the care and treatment they need. That might involve enrolling your child in an early intervention program or pursuing a medical negligence claim if you feel your child’s doctor caused their cerebral palsy. Contact the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs for legal recommendations and support through your family’s cerebral palsy journey.



Reviewed by:
Trish Fletcher, MS, BSN, CRNP, NNP-BC, ALNC
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner | Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant

Tricia is a dedicated, focused, Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner with more than 25 years of experience. Her strong clinical and critical thinking skills, paired with expertise caring for neonates in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), ensures meticulous medical records review. READ FULL BIO

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