What are the early signs of cerebral palsy?

What are the early signs of cerebral palsy?The signs of cerebral palsy usually appear in the first few months of life, but many children are not diagnosed until age 2 or later. In general, early signs of cerebral palsy include1,2:

  • Developmental delays. The child is slow to reach milestones such as rolling over, sitting, crawling, and walking. Developmental delays are the main clues that a child might have cerebral palsy.
  • Abnormal muscle tone. Body parts are floppy or too stiff.
  • Abnormal posture. The child might also use one side of the body more than the other when reaching, crawling, or moving.

Children without cerebral palsy may show some of these signs. If you notice any of these signs, you should talk to your child’s health care provider.

Some age-specific signs may include:

  • Infants younger than 6 months of age1,2:
    • Cannot hold up their head when picked up from lying on their back
    • May feel stiff or floppy
    • When picked up, their legs get stiff or cross
    • When held, they may overextend their back and neck, constantly acting as though they are pushing away from you
  • Infants older than 6 months of age1,2:
  • Cannot roll over
    • Cannot bring their hands to their mouth
    • Have a hard time bringing their hands together
    • Reach out with only one hand while holding the other in a fist
  • Infants older than 10 months of age1,2:
    • Crawl in a lopsided way, pushing with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg
    • Scoot around on their buttocks or hop on their knees but do not crawl on all fours
    • Cannot stand even when holding onto support

Children without cerebral palsy may show some of these signs. If you notice any of these signs, you should talk to your child’s health care provider.


  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2013). Cerebral palsy: Hope through research. Retrieved August 10, 2013, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Cerebral-Palsy-Hope-Through-Research
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013). Cerebral palsy. Retrieved August 11, 2013, from http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/developmental-disabilities/Pages/Cerebral-Palsy.aspx External Web Site Policy

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