How Speech Therapy Can Help Kids With Cerebral Palsy
Speech disorders are fairly common with children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. One study published by Swedish researchers indicated more than half of all kids cerebral palsy have some type of speech problem. Speech therapy can be integral in helping them to effectively communicate and function.
Lots of kids with cerebral palsy have trouble with control over the muscles in their head, neck, throat and face. This can lead to difficulty not only with speech, but also chewing, swallowing and drooling. They can be difficult to understand, which in turn can impact their ability to connect and learn.
Our Brecksville speech therapy team helps children with cerebral palsy improve the control of muscles needed for speech, language, swallowing and interacting.
Speech Therapy is Customized to Your Child
Many children with cerebral palsy benefit tremendously from speech therapy. We work with children to improve their speech and communication so they can better express their needs, share their ideas and connect with other people. We also work to help kids with chewing, swallowing and eating because we recognize that many kids with cerebral palsy who have these issues may struggle to grow and maintain a healthy weight. When we effectively target the eating and swallowing issues, children can get the proper level of hydration and nutrition, which is ultimately going to improve their life quality as well as their opportunities for independence.
As speech therapists, we tailor each plan of care to the individual child. Our focus areas/targets can include:
- Sound and word formation
- Word comprehension
- Pitch/speech volume
- Vocabulary and language development
- Breathing support & control
- Chewing & swallowing
- Muscle coordination and strength
It’s more than just helping a child better their ability to use and understand language. We recognize that the ability to communicate is central to so many areas of development, from cognition to social and emotional development. It’s going to help kids boost their independence and academic success, socialize with peers, express themselves, learn to problem-solve and improve their swallowing function and safety. All of this can work wonders for a child’s self-esteem.
Because there are many kinds of cerebral palsy, we understand there is no one-size-fits all approach that is going to work for every child. That’s why our speech therapy plans of care are written specifically for each child. Some of the speech issues we commonly treat among children with cerebral palsy include:
- Ataxic: Children with ataxic cerebral palsy may have something we call “scanning” speech, which monotone and often with frequent pauses and accelerations. Difficulty swallowing is also common.
- Spastic: Kids with spastic cerebral palsy may have oral movements that are slow and takes significant effort. Speech can sound sometimes slurred.
- Athetoid: Children who have athetoid cerebral palsy can have a difficult time keeping control of their tongue and facial muscles. They might have trouble breathing and sometimes struggle with eating/swallowing and drooling.
What Should I Expect in Speech Therapy?
The type, intensity and duration of speech therapy is different for every child. Our speech-language therapy team will first conduct an assessment of your child’s cognitive and physical functioning, and write up a treatment plan from there.
Sometimes we’ll map out a number of exercises (always in the form of play) to help your child eat, swallow and communicate. These can include things like blowing bubbles to help train the mouth to make certain sounds, as well as to boost the strength of the abdominal muscles to help better control breathing.
We might also recommend introducing sign language or incorporating assistive communication devices, particularly if a child is totally nonverbal.
Although our services are not age-restricted, we generally encourage early intervention (as young as possible) for the best long-term results.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Speech problems affect more than one in two children with cerebral palsy: Swedish population-based study, 2013, Acta Paediatrica
More Blog Entries:
Top 10 Causes of Child Speech Delays and Language Problems, Sept. 15, 2019, Brecksville Speech-Language Therapy Blog