Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis, Cerebral Palsy Information

Cerebral palsy is a condition caused by brain damage that leads to poor muscle tone and movement issues, including rigidity, involuntary movements, and unbalanced walking. The effects of CP on a child can vary, but it’s important to understand the possible cerebral palsy symptoms so that you can get your child the help they need.


Spasticity is a condition where a child’s muscles tighten or stiffen, making it difficult to control those muscles, and it is one of the most common symptoms for cerebral palsy. Children with CP often display jerky movements and involuntary muscle spasms because of this symptom.


Osteoporosis is minimized bone density that can result in small fractures. A doctor may perform a bone densitometry scan to measure bone mineral density. Although this isn’t a fail-proof test, doctors can still use the results combined with the knowledge that the child has experienced bone fractures to diagnose osteoporosis.

Feeding Difficulties

Cerebral palsy may lead to feeding difficulties, such as difficulty swallowing food. This can lead to failure to thrive, meaning that the child is slow to develop physically. Examples include a low percentile for head, weight, and height growth, abnormal mental and social skills, and delays in meeting milestones for rolling over, sitting, or walking.

Intellectual Development Issues

Typically, children should develop intellectually over time, based on certain milestones. If your child has a hard time reaching these milestones by the expected age, it could be a sign of cerebral palsy. Check out the intellectual development milestones by age group so you can determine if your child is showing symptoms of irregular delays.

Joint Contractures

Children with CP may have joint contractures where the joint tightens or shortens and causes a smaller range of motion. Symptoms include joint inflammation, loss of motion, an inability to stretch, and disrupted growth.


Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves sideways. A child with cerebral palsy typically showcases scoliosis earlier than non-CP children, so look out for uneven shoulders or waist, a more prominent shoulder blade and your child leaning to one side.


There are different types of seizures that a child with CP may experience, depending on which part of the brain is affected. If your child is having a seizure, you may see signs like a loss of consciousness, convulsive body movements or a sudden loss of muscle tone.

Hearing Loss

Up to 20% of children with cerebral palsy experience hearing loss, and you’ll likely notice hearing loss in your child before a doctor does. Signs of hearing loss include asking you to repeat what you’ve said and not being startled by loud noises.


It’s common for children with CP to exhibit hypotonia, which refers to decreased muscle tone or muscles that are too loose. A child with hypotonia may have poor head control and difficulty swallowing. They may also have trouble walking, sitting, and using their lower extremities.

Visual Issues

Symptoms related to visual issues in children with CP include difficulty tracking objects and frequent eye rubbing.


Because decreased motility is part of having CP, it’s common for the digestive tract to become affected. Muscle spasms, forced positioning, and poor fluid intake can slow down the waste elimination process, resulting in constipation.

Back Arching

If your child spastically arches their back, it may be a symptom of CP. If you see this in your child, especially when paired with other symptoms, be sure to mention it to their doctor.

Behavior Issues

Behavior issues may not be a symptom on its own, but children with cerebral palsy may be hyperactive, exhibit antisocial behavior, have uncontrollable temper tantrums, or show aggression.

Speech Impairment

Children with CP may have a hard time managing the muscles in their neck, throat, and face, which can lead to some speech impairment. Cerebral palsy can also affect the language center of the brain, making it challenging for children with CP to form words or make sounds.

Poor Judgment/Judgment Issues

Because cerebral palsy affects the brain, it may also cause judgment issues as children struggle with understanding the consequences of their actions.

Cognitive Impairment

Children with CP may show signs of cognitive impairment, such as difficulty speaking, a short attention span, trouble understanding and responding to others, emotional problems, and sensory issues.


Many children with cerebral palsy also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a digestive disorder with symptoms like chest pain, difficulty swallowing, coughing, obvious discomfort, and spitting up food. Most of these symptoms occur after eating.

Growth Hormones

Children with CP may also have a growth hormone deficiency. You may notice a slow or plateaued rate of growth, late puberty, a face that appears younger than your child’s peers or height that is much shorter than their peers.

Movement Disorders

Some of the other signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy in infants fall under movement disorders. Symptoms of these disorders include jerky movements, toe-curling, uncontrollable twitching, posturing, and flailing of extremities.


Dyskinesia results from damage to a specific area of the brain called the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia is responsible for voluntary movements, so if your child is affected, they may showcase unpredictable, repetitive movements or slow, writhing movements, all of which are uncontrolled.


Dystonia is a movement disorder where a child’s muscles contract involuntarily. This may lead to slow, twisting movements or movements that are repetitive. Dystonia may be present in just one area of the body or throughout the whole body.


Your child may be exhibiting hypertonic CP symptoms if they cross their legs uncontrollably, show abnormal movements, have a hard time getting around, or have muscle resistance when trying to move. These signs are usually accompanied by rigidity and muscle tension.

Get Help For Your Child’s Cerebral Palsy

Now that you know the symptoms of cerebral palsy, contact us today if you believe that your child has been incorrectly diagnosed or mistreated. The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC can help you and your family evaluate your legal and financial options and seek available compensation.



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

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?