Cerebral palsy

Pre-referral guidelines for primary care providers

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a non-progressive disorder of posture and movement resulting from a defect or lesion in the developing brain, occurring in the antenatal, perinatal or postnatal period.


The diagnosis of CP is largely clinical, made from a constellation of upper motor neurone signs. A diagnosis is often not made until the second year of life.

Imaging is not necessary for diagnosis, and is often only undertaken when an aetiology is unknown. Further investigations (bloods and/or imaging) are undertaken mainly to exclude other diagnoses.


There are multiple methods to classify CP, although the most commonly accepted are a descriptor of movement (e.g. spastic, choreoathetoid, dystonic) with a descriptor of topographical involvement (e.g. diplegia, hemiplegia, quadriplegia). Functional classification is then undertaken using the GMFCS (Gross Motor Functional Classification System):

Practice points


The management of CP is based around the screening and management of associations and complications.

Funding: Children with CP are eligible for funding and services through the NDIS. Some may be eligible for a Carer’s Allowance, as well as funding through the school services. See the Disability funding index for more detail.

Medication is not routine for the management of CP, however is often considered with certain associations and complications (e.g. spasticity management, saliva control, seizures). They are generally commenced in consultation with a paediatrician.

Referral pathways

  • Paediatrician
    • Semi-urgent referral for paediatric outpatient evaluation is recommended if a new diagnosis of CP is suspected
    • Information to bring to any appointments:
      • developmental or other assessments completed
      • your baby book (green folder or blue book)
      • growth charts and records
      • antenatal and birth records and history
  • Other services to consider
    • audiology & optometry/ophthalmology
    • allied health and possible Early Childhood Intervention Services (if developmental concerns)
    • paediatric neurology (if complex seizure disorder, diagnosis unclear, etc.)
    • VPRS (if considering botox or short term goal directed allied health therapy)
  • Other Resources