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Published: October 28, 2023

How to Recognize Pediatric Movement Disorders in Your Child

As parents, we constantly watch over our children, seeking to ensure their health and well-being. While many childhood milestones are celebrated with joy and excitement, there may be times when you notice something unusual in your child's movements or behavior. These moments can be concerning and raise questions about your child's development. It's essential to be vigilant and informed when it comes to recognizing potential health issues, such as pediatric movement disorders.

Pediatric movement disorders encompass a range of conditions that affect a child's ability to control their movements properly. These disorders can manifest in various ways, from subtle tremors or clumsiness to more pronounced and persistent motor difficulties. While these signs can be alarming, early recognition and intervention are crucial for providing the best possible care and support for your child.

Welcome to another informative post from New Jersey Pediatric Neuroscience Institute, where we're committed to providing valuable insights into pediatric health. In today's blog, we'll be diving into the world of pediatric movement disorders and discussing how to recognize the early signs in your child. As a parent, it's crucial to be aware of these conditions so that you can take the necessary steps to help your child thrive.

What are the early signs of a movement disorder?

Pediatric movement disorders can encompass a range of conditions that affect a child's ability to control their body's movements. Early detection is key to ensuring prompt intervention. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

  • Muscle Stiffness: If you notice your child's muscles are consistently tense or stiff, it could be a sign of a movement disorder. They may have difficulty moving their limbs or maintaining a relaxed posture.
  • Tremors: Unintentional shaking or trembling of the arms, legs, or other body parts can be an early sign. These tremors may occur at rest or during voluntary movements.
  • Involuntary Movements: Look for any sudden, uncontrollable movements, such as jerking, twisting, or repetitive motions. These movements may interfere with daily activities.
  • Difficulty with Balance and Coordination: If your child frequently stumbles, falls, or has trouble coordinating their movements, it's worth investigating further.
  • Speech and Swallowing Difficulties: Some movement disorders can affect a child's ability to speak clearly or swallow safely. Be alert to any speech or feeding issues.

A Guide for Recognizing Common Pediatric Movement Disorders

Now that you're familiar with the early signs, let's explore some common pediatric movement disorders that you might encounter:

  • Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral Palsy arises from brain damage during pregnancy or early childhood. It primarily results in difficulties related to muscle control, posture, and overall movement.
  • Dystonia: Dystonia is characterized by persistent muscle contractions, which give rise to unusual postures or repetitive movements. It can affect any part of the body, causing a range of physical challenges.
  • Tourette Syndrome: Tourette Syndrome is marked by involuntary vocalizations and motor tics. It typically begins in childhood and can vary in its degree of severity, leading to a variety of uncontrolled movements and sounds.
  • Ataxia: Ataxia impacts coordination and balance, often making fine motor skills a significant challenge. This condition can have various causes, including genetic factors, and can result in difficulties with tasks that require precise control of movement.

How do you diagnose a movement disorder?

If you suspect your child may have a movement disorder, it's important to seek professional medical advice. The diagnostic process often involves:

  • Medical History: During this stage, your child's healthcare provider will inquire about your family's medical history. They will also discuss your child's developmental milestones to gain a better understanding of their health background.
  • Physical Examination: The doctor will conduct a comprehensive physical examination. This involves assessing muscle tone, reflexes, and coordination in your child. They will carefully observe and evaluate these aspects to form an overall picture of your child's physical health.
  • Imaging and Tests: In certain situations, additional tests may be necessary. This could involve imaging studies such as MRIs or blood tests. These tests serve the purpose of ruling out other potential medical conditions and confirming the diagnosis, if needed.

Navigating Pediatric Movement Disorders with NJPNI Specialists

We believe in the importance of accessing the right specialists for pediatric movement disorders. The New Jersey Pediatric Neurology Institute (NJPNI) is a leading institution dedicated to the care of children with neurological conditions.

NJPNI's team of experts, including pediatric neurologists, physical therapists, and speech therapists, work together to create customized treatment plans for children with movement disorders. Early intervention and a comprehensive approach can significantly improve your child's quality of life.


Recognizing pediatric movement disorders in your child can be challenging, but early detection and intervention are crucial. By staying informed about the early signs and seeking expert guidance, you can help your child on their journey to a healthier and more fulfilling life. Remember, you're not alone in this; there are dedicated specialists like those at NJPNI ready to assist you and your child every step of the way. Your child's well-being is our priority, and we're here to support you on this important journey.

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NOTICE: This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for a patient/physician relationship.

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