A doctor diagnoses CP based on:
Questions about the child’s medical history, including details about the mother’s pregnancy.
A physical exam to look for signs of CP. The doctor will look to see if the child retains newborn reflexes longer than normal. This can be a sign of CP. Postures and basic muscle function, hearing, and vision are usually checked.
Screening tests. Developmental questionnaires and other tests may be done.
MRI of the head. This test can find brain abnormalities.
If the diagnosis is unclear, more tests may be done. Sometimes these tests can help find out the severity of CP.
A doctor may closely monitor a newborn or child for signs of CP if he or she has known risk factors. These factors may be related to problems during pregnancy or birth, being born early (premature birth), or problems that occur within the first 2 or 3 years of life.
Doctors are careful not to diagnose CP too early, because some babies who have motor skill problems soon after birth never get CP.
Sometimes symptoms may not appear until the nervous system matures. It can take up to a few years before doctors can tell if a baby with body movement and posture (motor) problems has CP.