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Communication is an important part of daily life for any family. Some children with cerebral palsy have no problems talking and expressing their wants and needs. However, if your child has issues with communication, there are a number of resources available and tips you can learn to teach them how to express themselves.
Early intervention healthcare providers who specialize in cerebral palsy recommend having your child tested for hearing, vision, and other communication aspects. The sooner you can get your child tested, the easier intervention techniques will be if needed.
Intervention typically begins when the child turns 1 or 2 years old. However, this can vary according to your child’s individual needs. Intervention typically consists of focusing on teaching skills to help improve your child’s communication.
For instance, some children will need to learn sign language or use communication boards due to severe hearing problems. Other children may need speech therapy services due to swallowing issues or other medical problems.
Why Children With Cerebral Palsy Have Communication Problems
Speech and language problems are common disorders of cerebral palsy. According to a study done by two physicians and published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “dysarthria is a barrier to effective communication for many children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including more than 50% of children with cerebral palsy.” 
Dysarthria generally occurs due to the following factors:
- Weak respiratory control
- Laryngeal dysfunction
- Velopharyngeal dysfunction
- Oral articulation problems
- Oral sensory disturbances
Treatment Options to Help Your Child Communicate Better
In order to help your child maximize daily communication, you may need to utilize a team of specialists, including a speech pathologist, your child’s primary healthcare provider, a physiotherapist, a physical therapist, and an occupational therapist. Each expert will work with your child in different areas to ensure the best resources are being used to improve your child’s communication skills.
For instance, a speech pathologist will help with speech articulation, how to improve listening skills, and if needed, can teach the child sign language and/or how to use a communication board. A physical therapist will help the child with balance and motor skills which can help with speech.
An occupational therapist can help with developing important daily life skills. Communication deficits may range from mild to severe and each child will use an individualized composition of medical professionals to help the child and family achieve their goals.
How You Can Help Your Child at Home
Working with your child at home and in connection with a team of medical professionals is highly recommended, as it allows your child to practice what’s learned in therapy. Depending on your child’s unique needs, home therapy may include helping your child practice saying sentences, forming correct facial techniques when practicing words, practicing sign language, and practicing breathing techniques.
Try to make home practice fun to encourage learning and provide positive reinforcement when the learned skills are performed.
Keep in mind that patience is the key while teaching your child daily communication. There may be many days of frustration, but if you stick the medical team’s plan and participate daily in helping your child, there is a great chance that he/she will eventually learn to effectively communicate.
- Allison, K., & Hustad, K. (2018, May 15). Acoustic predictors of pediatric dysarthria in cerebral palsy. PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5963041/