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Cerebral palsy and speech therapy are important for children with this condition. It helps children communicate better. It also helps children who struggle to eat, swallow, and breathe.
What Is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy is a form of therapy to help people improve their speaking skills so that they’ll be able to communicate more effectively. Children with cerebral palsy often have difficulties with speech, ranging from mild to severe.
Not all children with cerebral palsy have speech issues. However, studies performed by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH) shows that many children with cerebral palsy will experience some form of speech impairment.
A licensed speech therapist works closely with each child to develop the best individualized plan to help patients communicate more effectively. Speech therapists typically provide children with exercises that help them understand gestures, words, numbers, sounds, and more.
Speech therapists also help children with breathing, swallowing, and digestion issues, all of which are common problems for children with cerebral palsy.
Speech Therapy Exercises
Exercises for speech improvement may include teaching the child sign language, communication through writing and painting, winking, voice synthesizers, picture boards, and using augmentative communication devices. These forms of treatment help children address and improve issues such as:
- Pronunciation skills
- Vocabulary development
- Listening skills
- Comprehension and formation of words
- Direct conversation engagement
- Mouth and throat issues
Speech therapy treatment depends on the child’s complete physical assessment results. Since each child is unique, they will have different needs determined during the assessment. The evaluation results will allow the therapist to create an individualized plan for the child.
Speech Therapy and Swallowing Issues
Many children with cerebral palsy have a difficult time swallowing, known as dysphagia. Dysphagia occurs due to physiological and neurological disorders, as well as irregularities in the throat.
Speech therapists assist children the dysphagia by working to reduce the symptoms of the condition, which generally include choking on food and drinks, breathing difficulties, excessive coughing, and pulmonary aspiration of food and fluids.
Other Issues Addressed by Speech Therapy
Numerous conditions can lead to speech problems. The goals of a speech and language therapist are to address the associated conditions that cause speech issues in the first place, including:
- Intonation and rhythm issues
- Vocal tract problems
There are many associated disorders that a therapist will help try to prevent or reduce. Commonly associated disorders include:
- Easily choking on foods and liquids
- Extreme coughing
- Pulmonary aspiration
- Difficulties with breathing
- Dehydration and malnutrition (typically because of choking on foods or liquids)
Benefits of Speech Therapy
Of course, communication is extremely important and one of life’s most enjoyable experiences. It remains a big part of what shapes us into the personalities and people we become. It forms our experiences and influences us, and it’s a part of the larger human experience.
Children who have communication issues are already at a disadvantage. Still, with the proper interventions from speech therapists, these issues can be dealt with to help the child communicate properly.
The benefit of speech therapy is that the child will learn effective ways to communicate, which will help them throughout the course of life, including daily living and social activities.
Other benefits include:
- Ability to participate fully in school and home activities
- Better relationship development with friends, peers, and family
- Better socialization skills
- Ability to communicate ideas consistently and effectively
Who Conducts Speech Therapy?
Speech therapists, or speech pathologists, conduct speech therapy sessions. Speech pathologists generally hold a Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Pathology. Most states require that they get certified through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
In order to obtain ASHA certification, speech pathologists must complete numerous courses dealing with the throat, mouth, speech, psychology, social work, and more.
If your child with cerebral palsy struggles with speech or swallowing, ask your medical team for a speech and language therapy referral.
- Cerebral Palsy: Hope Through Research. (2020, March 23). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Retrieved from: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Cerebral-Palsy-Hope-Through-Research
- Santos-Longhurst, A. (n.d.). Speech Therapy: What It Is, How It Works & Why You May Need Therapy. Healthline.
Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/speech-therapy
- Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Certification. (n.d.). American Speech-Language-Hearing Association | ASHA.
Retrieved from: https://www.asha.org/certification/