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Screening for and Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy

In the previous section, we talked about the Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy. In this post, you’ll learn more about what to do if you have noticed symptoms of Cerebral Palsy. Here, we will discuss how to get your child screened for Cerebral Palsy, the diagnosis process, and next steps. 

This information has been compiled from government sources, medical sources, and from consulting with experts on Cerebral Palsy.

Let’s begin by diving into screening and diagnosing Cerebral Palsy.

Three Steps to Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy

Although the process isn’t always the same, there are generally three steps to diagnosing Cerebral Palsy. Depending on a child’s symptoms and age, the process and how long it takes may vary. The three steps are: 

  1. Developmental Monitoring or Surveillance
  2. Developmental Screening
  3. Developmental and Medical Evaluations

In the following sections, we’ll cover what to expect during each step in the process.

1. Developmental Monitoring or Surveillance

During the monitoring / surveillance phase, parents and medical professionals will work together to track whether the child is hitting the appropriate development milestones on time. If a child is struggling with particular milestones (as discussed in our Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy post), then the next step is to order a developmental screening test. 

Today, there are many apps that parents can use to track important childhood development milestones. These apps can be useful for keeping track of whether your child is hitting the right milestones on time. Here are just a few:

2. Developmental Screening

During a developmental screening, a medical professional will perform a series of tests to measure a child’s specific capabilities and developmental progress. 

Examples of Cerebral Palsy screening tests include:

  • Interviewing the parents
  • Having the parents complete a questionnaire
  • Well-child office visits (typically at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months)

Often by around 30 months, symptoms of CP are clear. If a medical professional screens a child and sees cause for worry, she may refer the parents for a developmental and medical evaluation.

3. Developmental and Medical Evaluations

The final step are developmental and medical evaluations. At this point, the medical professionals have observed that there is something wrong and will try to diagnose the specific disorder. 

A doctor may examine the child looking at her muscle tone, reflexes, coordination, and posture. The doctor will also look for symptoms of related conditions, such as seizures, hearing or visual impairment, and intellectual disabilities. 

Finally, the doctor may order imaging or scans of the child’s brain and skeleton. CT scans, MRIs, and EEGs are common tests that may reveal brain injuries associated with CP, or body development problems associated with CP. These tests may also reveal or help to rule out other related conditions.  

Who Should I Contact for Help?

Most people reach out to their primary care physician first. Your primary care physician will already be familiar with your medical history and with your child, so reaching out to her first is a natural first step. 

If your primary care physicians has concerns, she may refer you to a specialist. There are several kinds of specialists who may be helpful to see, including: developmental pediatricians, neurodevelopment pediatricians, neurologists who specialize in children, pediatric physiatrists, and pediatric rehabilitation doctors. 

In addition to contacting medical professionals, you may also wish to speak with a birth injury attorney. If you suspect that your child’s injury was caused by a preventable medical mistake, a birth injury attorney may be able to help you investigate to find out whether or not that injury was preventable. 

In our next section, we will discuss the prognosis and life expectancy for a child with Cerebral Palsy. Keep reading to learn more.

About Brown Trial Firm

Getting help for a child with cerebral palsy can make a big difference. Because early intervention is often key to helping improve a child’s wellbeing, it’s important to act swiftly.

At the Brown Trial Firm, our birth injury attorneys can help you investigate your case, find answers to your questions, and determine whether you are entitled to compensation. 

We offer case reviews at no cost or obligation. Many birth injuries that cause cerebral palsy could have been prevented. Don’t wait, get help today. Call us toll free at +1 (866) 223-7465 or email us a [email protected].


What is Cerebral Palsy? | CDC. (2018). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 31 October 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/facts.html

Developmental Milestones. (2018). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 31 October 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html

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