Early Diagnosis & Intervention

Detecting, diagnosing, and intervening early to improve quality of life for all
children with cerebral palsy.

Early intervention and treatment can make a huge difference to the lives of children with cerebral palsy (CP). Neuroscience research tells us that intensive, repeated, task-specific and play-based early intervention should ideally commence as early as possible for children diagnosed with, or at high risk of cerebral palsy.

Starting treatment as soon after brain injury as possible optimises the nervous system’s ability to change its activity in response to experience by reorganising its structure, functions, or connections. Early identification and diagnosis are essential. Infants at risk of CP need targeted, customised early intervention and ongoing monitoring to prevent secondary problems from occurring, and ongoing support for their parents and carers.

Our team led the development of International Clinical Practice Early Diagnosis Guidelines for infants who are at risk or have a CP diagnosis. The guidelines make strong recommendations for a major change in standard diagnostic practice for young children, and have recently been complemented by an international guideline for early intervention aiming to optimise neuroplasticity, prevent common secondary impairments and enhance parent wellbeing.

Australian babies can be diagnosed with CP as early as 3 months of age if the most accurate assessments are used at the right time. However, fragmented practice means most children are diagnosed well after 12 months of age and a vital window of opportunity for interventions during a critical phase of the baby's brain development is lost.

A standardised early detection test is unavailable in Australia and early childhood checks and systems vary across the country. MRI and General Movements Assessment (GMA) are available but not fully implemented.

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