Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and body movement. It is caused by brain damage before, during, or shortly after birth.
Though primarily known for its impact on the ability to move muscles properly, cerebral palsy can also make it difficult to speak or communicate clearly. When it comes to overcoming speech and communication challenges associated with cerebral palsy (CP), speech therapy plays a significant role.
Let’s discuss cerebral palsy, the importance of speech therapy for individuals with cerebral palsy, and various communication strategies and techniques that can help with cerebral palsy treatment.
Understanding Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a complex condition that varies in severity and symptoms among individuals, especially children. Some children with CP may have mild issues with muscle control, while others might be unable to walk or move independently. Similarly, some children with CP may have normal speech patterns, while others may struggle with speech and language.
Speech problems in cerebral palsy occur due to muscle weakness and lack of fine motor control in the muscles used for speaking, like the tongue, vocal cords, lips, and diaphragm. These difficulties can lead to issues with articulation, voice control, and breathing while speaking.
The Role of Speech Therapy in Cerebral Palsy Treatment
Speech therapy is essential to the multidisciplinary treatment approach for cerebral palsy. According to reports, about 75% of children with cerebral palsy have speech problems, and luckily, it’s estimated that 50% to 70% of these children can benefit from speech therapy and enjoy a higher quality of life.
The primary goals of speech therapy for someone with cerebral palsy include:
- Enhancing verbal communication skills
- Improving non-verbal communication
- Assisting with chewing, feeding, and swallowing difficulties
- Increasing comprehension and expression of language
Communication Strategies and Techniques
There are different techniques and strategies that a speech and language therapist might use to help someone with CP improve their communication skills.
Articulation therapy is a technique where a speech pathologist guides a child in making the correct sounds. This might involve physically manipulating the child’s mouth or tongue, showing them how to correctly position their lips and tongue to produce specific sounds.
Blowing exercises help children learn to control their breathing during speech. These exercises include blowing bubbles, feathers, or cotton balls across a table.
Drills involve repeating problematic sounds, words, or phrases repeatedly. This could mean pronouncing a difficult sound in isolation or within words or sentences.
The repetitive nature of drills helps to strengthen the muscles used in speech and reinforce the correct pronunciation of challenging sounds.
Language and Word Association
In language and word association activities, a speech pathologist uses photos, objects, and books to help a child expand their vocabulary. The child learns to pronounce words correctly and understand their meaning and purpose.
Tongue exercises focus on strengthening the tongue and teaching proper tongue placement for specific sounds. These exercises might involve the child sticking their tongue out, moving it from side to side, or trying to touch their nose or chin with it.
Jaw exercises strengthen the jaw muscles, supporting proper speech and the ability to chew food and drink liquids safely. These exercises might involve opening and closing the mouth, moving the jaw side to side, or chewing on resistant materials like rubber tubing or chewy foods.
Breathing exercises help regulate a child’s breathing so they can develop disciplined speaking and minimize breathlessness. These exercises might involve taking deep breaths in and out, holding breaths for a few seconds, or breathing out slowly while making a sound or saying a phrase.
Children who don’t speak often learn sign language or gestures from speech therapists to communicate with others. However, modern technology and some traditional methods have been particularly helpful in helping these children overcome their communication challenges.
Some manual tools a speech therapist might use include:
- Wipe-off boards
- Books or boards with pictures that a child can point to
- Cards with words to express ideas.
- Flip charts for conveying more intricate messages.
Speech therapists can also use assistive technologies that could include:
- Alternate communication systems using symbols.
- Computers for typing out simple messages.
- Computers pre-loaded with specific messages
- Voice synthesizers
- Software that lets a child select pictures or words by pressing a switch or pointing with a joystick or an infrared pointer.
Cerebral Palsy Treatment in Farmington Hills, Howell, and Novi, MI
At Associates in Neurology, we have highly trained specialists and advanced technologies to diagnose and provide long-term treatment for cerebral palsy. Our treatments aim to improve strength, flexibility, balance, motor development, and mobility. These include pain medication, muscle tightness treatments, spasticity management, oral muscle relaxants, and various therapies like occupational, recreational, speech, language, and physical therapy.
To know more about us or to schedule a consultation with one of our providers, contact us today at (248) 478-5512 or fill out our online appointment request form. We look forward to serving you!