Cerebral palsy (CP) is a congenital disorder that can cause a wide range of health issues. It is typically diagnosed in infancy or around the time that a child enters preschool. Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, treatments such as speech therapy, which the child will most likely require on a long-term basis, can vastly improve the child’s quality of life.
With cerebral palsy communication difficulties and speech delays are common. Children may also have difficulty producing sounds due to poor muscle control. And for many youngsters with CP who have dysarthria, a motor speech disorder, articulation can be a challenge. Your child might also have hearing loss, which can further complicate communication and contribute to speech and language delays.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices
An AAC device is any method of nonverbal communication. Children with a severe speech delay can benefit from using alternative methods of communicating to express themselves and reduce frustration. Unfortunately, many kids with CP struggle with motor control which makes sign language might difficult for some. Your child’s SLP can teach him to use an electronic reader device or a picture cards system to communicate.
Your child’s speech therapist can also guide him through exercises designed to strengthen the oral motor muscles. These might include tongue curling, blowing bubbles, and cheek puffing. Oral motor exercises may improve muscle tone and increase control over the muscles needed for speech. However, speech therapists are divided as to the benefits of oral motor exercises to improve speech. A recent study suggests that they may not be as helpful as previously thought. You may therefore wish to get a second or third opinion from additional SLPs.
Many kids with cerebral palsy struggle to articulate words clearly. Speech therapists might do articulation drills to encourage the child to produce the target sound. An SLP will also likely teach the child how to manipulate the oral motor muscles to produce each sound. Talk to your child’s SLP about speech therapy techniques that you can do at home to improve articulation. As well, consider using Speech Buddies for specific target sounds. A few minutes of practice with Speech Buddies daily can help your child learn the proper positioning of his tongue for certain sounds.