General movements assessment factsheet


The general movements assessment is an assessment used for babies from birth to 4 months of age. It is a reliable assessment tool used to check for early signs of motor delay and neurological impairment, specifically cerebral palsy.

This assessment is used to check the development of babies who are born prematurely or have difficulties while in the womb, at birth, or shortly after birth.

 Before the test

The general movements assessment is one part of the assessments that are used to check your baby’s progress as they grow. Your baby’s treatment team will talk to you about the general movements assessment and answer any questions you have.

 During the test

In the general movements assessment, your baby’s treatment team will take a short video recording of your baby while they are awake and moving. Your baby will be filmed lying on their back in their cot or on the floor. They must be in a calm state and only be wearing their nappy.

Your baby may be assessed more than once using this assessment while they are in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care nursery (SCN).

 After the test

Your baby’s treatment team will ask you to record a follow-up video of this assessment when your baby is 12-14 weeks old (or their corrected age if your baby was born prematurely). This video can also be recorded during your NICU clinic review by your child’s therapist.

If your baby is showing early signs of motor delay, their physiotherapist will give you some play ideas to promote movement skills. They may also refer you to an outpatient therapy team in your local area. Your baby’s development should continue to be checked as they grow.


Consent and privacy

It is important that you read and understand the information given to you about this assessment as it involves recording a video of your child. 

You will need to read and sign a consent form to confirm that you agree to having your child filmed for the general movements assessment. If you agree to recording your child, it means you also agree to having other health professionals view the video for training and educational purposes. Your baby’s video will be stored securely, will not be shared and will not be accessible on the internet.

Talk to your child’s treatment team if you have any questions or concerns.

Spontaneous movements

All babies, whether they are born at term or prematurely, will move on their own. These movements are called spontaneous movements.

Babies start to move spontaneously at about 8 weeks of pregnancy and the movements gradually become more complex as the baby grows.

General movements are the most complex and frequently occurring of these spontaneous movements. They involve arm, leg, neck, and body movements. These movements vary in size and speed and have a gradual beginning and end. Other spontaneous movements include stretches, yawns, and startles.

Last updated Thursday 7th December 2023


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024