Speech Therapy for Kids With Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy often affects the muscles of the mouth and tongue, making it difficult or impossible to speak clearly.
Communication is just as important as mobility in helping a person with cerebral palsy live an independent lifestyle, and socialization depends on a person’s ability to interact with their peers. Since language is the primary form of communication, and speaking requires a complex coordination of the tongue, mouth, lips, face and other parts of the body, deficiencies can lead to isolation and depression.
Communication problems often arise between children with cerebral palsy and their peers/parents, and can often hamper the child-caregiver relationship. Speech therapy is a very helpful and effective tool for those with cerebral palsy—especially young children.
The majority of people with cerebral palsy have the full mental capacity of anyone else their age, but their speech impediments sometimes make people feel the need to talk down to them or to go so far as to be condescending in their tone. You can imagine how frustrating this would be. When children learn how to speak more clearly, they are able to make their point, make their needs known, and engage in a healthier level of socialization.
What Does Speech Therapy Seek to Accomplish?
Cerebral palsy often affects the language centers of the brain which control speech. Even a child with a mild case of cerebral palsy can have difficulty in choosing the correct words, and in more-extreme cases, someone’s capability to convey what they wish to say can be severely impeded.
Speech and communication skills will assist the child in learning, assisting on projects, communicating with others, as well as giving the individual a sense of normalcy. Starting speech therapy early in a child’s life can benefit communication skills throughout their early adolescence, and continue into adulthood.
Communication skills are a combination of both conveying what one is wanting to say, as well as understanding others and the environment around them. Speech therapists focus on both communication skills when working with a child.
Using aids in speech therapy is a way of learning which can be more-comfortable with someone with CP. Activities such as encouraged speech, signing while speaking, electronic aids or a picture board are all useful learning aids. Children who communicate using more than one method of speaking (such as signing as they are speaking or pointing to objects to help describe what they are trying to say) are more likely to increase speech development skills over time. Communication tools can range from low tech devices to more high-tech computer generated devices.
Strengthening the muscles of the mouth are another big part of speech therapy. The ability to say words, smile, close one’s mouth or stick out one’s tongue all are addresses with speech therapy, as is teaching sign language and improving listening skills.
What is particularly great about speech therapy for people with cerebral palsy is people of any age can benefit from learning new speech methods. Of course though, early intervention always brings the most-satisfying results.
Is Speech Therapy Effective?
Studies have shown that a child with cerebral palsy–with the assistance of a speech therapist–can increase their oral motor skills and communication abilities by exercising the brain to both pronounce and interpret individual words, gestures, sounds, as well as everyday situations. In addition, speech therapy can help improve the throat muscles in a child with CP, which can improve the function of the mouth, throat and movement involving breathing and swallowing.
A speech therapist can work with a patient to determine how that patient can most effectively form intelligible words considering their disabilities. This requires a great deal of skill, patience and a willingness to learn on the part of both the speech therapist and the patient themselves. It does take time. The results, however, can be meaningful and life-changing.
Cost of Speech Therapy
Of course, speech therapy is one more expense, and can be out of reach for some. Many families were never able to successfully recover compensation from the doctor or hospital which caused the child’s cerebral palsy in the first place, placing the entire cost of therapy and care on the family.
A child or person with cerebral palsy can greatly benefit from speech therapy, both personally and with those they associate with daily. It has also been shown that development in speech skills can aid in physical and mobility skills as well, and any development in mental functioning will benefit the individual.
To learn more about speech therapy and whether or not your child may benefit from this type of therapy, speak to your pediatrician.