The paediatrician will ask about your child's medical history and their development. They will also study your child's reflexes, posture, movements and muscle tone.
Depending on your child's age, you may also be referred to an educational psychologist so your child's intellectual development can be assessed.
Tests and scans
Further tests may be recommended to rule out other problems with similar symptoms to cerebral palsy. These can include a general delay in development or a specific medical condition, such as muscular dystrophy (a group of inherited conditions that gradually weaken the muscles).
In some cases, further testing will also be able to confirm a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. This is because the condition can cause changes to the brain's structure, which can be detected by tests.
Tests your child may have include:
- a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which uses radio and magnetic waves to study the brain in more detail
- an ultrasound scan, which uses sound waves to build up a picture of your child's brain tissue
- a computerised tomography (CT) scan, which uses a series of X-rays that are then assembled by a computer to create a detailed 3-D model of your child's brain
- an electroencephalogram (EEG), where small electrodes are placed on the scalp to monitor brain activity
- an electromyogram (EMG), where muscle activity and the function of the peripheral nerves (the network of nerves that run from your brain and spinal cord to other areas of the body) is tested.
- blood tests
In some cases, when a baby requires special care in hospital after being born, it may be possible for a confident diagnosis of cerebral palsy to be made relatively quickly. In many cases, however, a clear diagnosis is only possible after a few months or years of screening.
It may not be possible to determine the type and severity of your child's condition until they reach four or five years old.