Information for the public

Finding out if your child has cerebral palsy

Is my baby at risk of cerebral palsy?

It may not be obvious when a baby is born that they have cerebral palsy. But certain problems are linked to a higher risk of having it, so if anything in causes of cerebral palsy applies to your baby, it should be explained that they could be at risk.

If your baby is at higher risk of cerebral palsy, their movement and development should be closely checked. This should happen at their routine appointments up to 3 months of age. They should then have extra follow‑up appointments to check for problems until they are 2.

Early signs

Parents and carers are often first to notice unusual signs in their child as they develop. For example:

  • they have unusual movements as a baby

  • their limbs seem either too floppy or too stiff

  • they have difficulties with feeding

  • they are late in sitting (after 8 months) or walking (after 18 months)

  • they use 1 hand more than the other before they are 12 months old

  • they often walk on tip‑toes.

If your health visitor, GP or another doctor thinks your baby is showing any of these signs that suggest possible cerebral palsy, they should refer them to a specialist team at the local child development service for more checks (see who will we see?).

When can you tell if my child has cerebral palsy?

For some children it may be possible to identify cerebral palsy straight away from their medical history, symptoms and development. For others it takes time to be sure. Some other conditions can look like cerebral palsy, and doctors may want to wait and watch your child closely as they grow. If so, they should explain to you why they can't yet confirm whether your child has cerebral palsy.

If doctors think your child might have a different condition they should refer you to a specialist in conditions that affect the brain and nervous system (called a neurologist or a neurodisability specialist) who works with children.

Questions you may want to ask

  • What is the chance that my baby has cerebral palsy?

  • What are the signs that a child might have cerebral palsy?

  • What should I do if I spot any of these signs?

  • How long will it take to find out if my child does have cerebral palsy?

  • Can you tell me more about how cerebral palsy is identified?

  • Information Standard