What is a Cerebral Palsy Assessment?

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  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2019
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A cerebral palsy assessment determines what type of cerebral palsy is present by observing the person's physical, sensory, perceptual, emotional, cognitive and social developmental levels. An assessment is necessary because cerebral palsy presents a wide variety of symptoms and affects no two people the same. A treatment and management plan can be formulated after the cerebral palsy assessment has determined the type of cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is an effect of a brain injury suffered by a child before he or she is 2 years old. There are four main types of cerebral palsy. Athetoid cerebral palsy has the symptoms of uncontrolled and involuntary movement. Spastic cerebral palsy is distinguished by difficult and stiff movement. Ataxic cerebral palsy causes a disturbed sense of depth perception and balance. The fourth type of cerebral palsy is mixed cerebral palsy, which displays any combination of the other types' symptoms.

The cerebral palsy assessment involves observing the child's behavior and focusing on where limitations surface. The child is observed in several positions. Physical behaviors that the doctor will look for during assessment might include involuntary movements, the accuracy of the child's attempts to hold onto or let go of items and any parts of the body that remain in the same position when the rest of the body moves to another position.


In addition to observation, the cerebral palsy assessment might include developmental tests. These tests can include the pre-speech assessment scale, the Denver developmental screening test and developmental programming for infants and young children. The pre-speech assessment scale examines feeding behavior, respiration-phonation and sound play in children ages 2 and younger. The Denver developmental screening test assesses developmental delays in the areas of gross and fine motor development, language, adaptive behaviors and social behaviors in children from birth to age 6. Developmental programming for infants and young children evaluates gross and fine motor development, self care, perceptual development, language and cognition in children from birth to age 6.

It is very important that the child's comfort be given a great level of care during the cerebral palsy assessment, because of the age of the children during assessment and the nature of the symptoms. Reassessment should be a continuing part of the treatment plan. It also is important to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatments.


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