Cerebral Palsy Research - USA

The General Movements Assessment is a quick, non-invasive and cost-effective way to identify neurological issues which may lead to cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities. The assessment can be conducted from birth to 3 months of age.

General movements (GMs) are a distinct movement pattern that is evident in babies before birth (foetuses from 9 weeks) and after birth (up to 18 weeks post-term). The movement pattern is one which the baby does spontaneously and without any external stimulation, such as a parent playing or talking to them.GMs are helpful in the early diagnosis of an impaired central nervous system and the specific prediction of later neurological conditions. If a baby is assessed as being ‘at risk’ of having cerebral palsy, then intervention can start early – with potentially much better outcomes for the child. The assessment tool was developed by Professor Heinz Prechtl, a Developmental Neurologist, from Graz in Austria.

How is the assessment done?

The assessment can be done by observing the baby as they lay in a natural situation, such as on a mat on the floor. However the assessment can best be done by watching a video of the child in that same situation. In Australia, a small but growing number of therapists, doctors and nurse specialists have been trained in the assessment technique.

Should my child have the assessment?

If your child is under 18 weeks post term age and there were medical concerns at birth (prematurity, lack of oxygen, stroke or congenital heart disease) the General Movements Assessment may give extra information of how the baby’s neurological system is developing. The assessment is not used as a screening tool for healthy babies.

Please speak to your medical practitioner or therapist if you have any concerns about your baby.

Who can do this assessment?

In Australia, some therapy staff at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance have been trained to perform the assessment. A number of tertiary hospitals across Australia also have staff trained to use the GMs.

Parent videos can also be used by assessors. To provide an assessable video, the baby should be filmed lying on their back, lightly dressed (no socks) and in a calm state. The baby should not be interacted with so that their spontaneous movement can be observed. They should not be sucking a dummy or playing with a toy.

Assessor training

A 4 day training course is offered by the General Movements Trust, which is based in Europe. More information about this training, publications and the General Movements Assessment can be found on the General Movements Trust website at www.general-movements-trust.info.