Intelligence and Cerebral Palsy: What You Need to Know

In this post, we will cover how Cerebral Palsy may or may not affect a child’s intelligence and how to determine if a child may have intellectual impairments. 

This information was compiled from medical journals, non profits, and experts who study Cerebral Palsy. 

Keep reading to learn more about intelligence and Cerebral Palsy.

Student with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy Isn’t an Intellectual Impairment, But…

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a series of muscle and movement disorders. People with Cerebral Palsy have limited mobility or coordination of their arms and or legs. Although permanent, CP is fortunately non-progressive, meaning it does not worsen over time. 

Cerebral Palsy does not on its own affect a person’s intelligence. However, as many as 30-50% of children with CP have some form of cognitive impairment caused by a coexisting condition. Although we do not always understand what causes cognitive impairment, often the same trauma that causes CP during labor and delivery can also affect other areas of the brain and cause a cognitive impairment. 

For example, if a child experiences hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, also known as HIE, meaning that parts of the brain do not receive sufficient oxygen flow during labor and delivery, the brain injury that occurs may cause both CP and other disorders.

Common coexisting conditions that relate to intellectual or learning barriers during childhood development may include:

  • Short attention spans (including ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Poor hearing
  • Poor vision 
  • Language and communication difficulties 
  • Emotional and behavioral struggles

There does seem to be a correlation between more severe cases of CP and intellectual impairment. However, some children with severe CP have no intellectual impairments whatsoever, and some children with mild CP have severe intellectual impairments–so nothing is a certainty. 

Signs of Intelligence 

Commonly, the best indicators of intelligence in young children are whether children are achieving normal developmental milestones early or on time. Delays in hitting developmental milestones do not necessarily indicate a cognitive impairment, but are one of the first signs that the child may be intellectually impaired.

Here are some of the common developmental milestones to watch for:

  • Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking on time
  • Appearing to be alert, able to focus on faces or sources of sound, responding to facial expressions
  • Language progression: babbling / trying to mimic sounds, learning to connect individual words with meaning (people’s/pet’s names, colors, shapes, and so on), stringing words together into phrases, and so on
  • Success with potty training, dressing, and feeding 
  • Showing the ability to remember things / develop object permanence 
  • Understanding that actions result in consequences
  • An absence of severe behavioral problems / excessive fussiness 
  • Evidence of problem-solving abilities

Delays or deficiencies in these areas may indicate an intellectual impairment.

Screening for Intellectual Impairments

If you notice that a child is not meeting common developmental milestones, you should start by contacting your primary care physician or family doctor and telling the doctor your concerns. 

Writing down your questions and observations ahead of time may help you remember to get answers to all of your concerns during the appointment. Following the appointment, the doctor may wish to start with an observational screening period. 

During the screening process, the doctor may wish to conduct developmental tests or observe the child for a period of time. Additionally, the doctor may order imaging such as x-rays, CT scans, or an MRI to help further investigate potential issues.

All of this information gathering period is helpful for determining a diagnosis, especially in young children when it may be challenging to diagnose what is wrong.

Developing a Treatment Plan

If a child shows any signs of intellectual or physical impairment, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. 

Early intervention is critical and may significantly improve a child’s prognosis. A proper treatment plan can help a child with access to therapy, medicine, medical procedures, specialized equipment, and more.

If you have questions about an intellectual or physical impairment related to Cerebral Palsy, the birth injury attorneys as Brown Trial Firm can help. Use the 24/7 live chat feature to get connected and begin learning about treatment options and support for you and your family.


Cold, F., Health, E., Disease, H., Disease, L., Management, P., & Conditions, S. et al. (2020). Intellectual Disability (Mental Retardation). WebMD. Retrieved 14 January 2020, from

Alliance, C. (2020). How does cerebral palsy affect people? | Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Retrieved 14 January 2020, from

Contact a Cerebral Palsy and Birth Injury Attorney

Getting help for a child with a birth injury can make a big difference. Early intervention and early treatment is often key to helping improve a child’s wellbeing. You must act quickly.

If you have questions about whether your child’s birth injury was caused by a preventable medical error, then our attorneys at Brown Trial Firm may be able to help.

Case Review at No Cost or Obligation

If you would like help investigating your child’s birth injury, please contact us. Our birth injury attorneys will be happy to give you a free case evaluation. We can also point you to great non-legal resources that can help you figure out your next steps.

Many birth injuries that cause cerebral palsy could have been prevented. Don’t wait, get help today. Call +1 (844) 232-9228, email us at [email protected], or use the live chat button for 24/7 assistance.

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