In general, CP is caused by the abnormal development of, or damage to, the brain affecting muscle control and movement. For most children with CP, the specific cause for this abnormal development or brain damage is unknown.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual. Early signs of CP involve not meeting developmental motor milestones, which are goals for when a child typically achieves specific movements such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking. A baby with CP may feel floppy or stiff, be unable to roll, and have difficulty moving hands and arms.
Common symptoms of CP include spasticity or tight muscles that don’t stretch, tight joints, abnormal walking, exaggerated reflexes, muscle weakness, unusual posture, and involuntary movements. CP can affect one limb, one side of the body, all four limbs, or a combination. Symptoms do not worsen over time, but they can become more apparent as a child grows and moves through developmental stages. While about half of children with CP can walk independently, about a third have limited to no ability to walk.