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How Families Can Support Communication For Children With Cerebral Palsy

About one in 323 children have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, according to studies by CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. And of those with a diagnosis, more than half have an existing speech or language impairment. For individuals with cerebral palsy, there are functional challenges that prevent effective communication. Thus, children born with the condition are more likely to need strong familial support and professional therapy in order to lead a normal life. 

Benefits Of Speech Therapy

Speech therapy is crucial for the development of children with cerebral palsy. As their communication and speech skills improve, they become more able to convey their thoughts and needs to those around them. Social skills can also be improved with speech therapy, as it teaches the individual how to better articulate themselves to communicate with others around them. Reading and writing skills are also addressed, as literacy is just as important to a child as speech is.

How Does Speech Therapy Help?

Picture this: a parent cares for a child with only a general impression about what the child knows, enjoys, and how they feel about their family. Now imagine the parent not knowing if the child is emotionally torn, being bullied at school, or feeling ill. For some, this may sound like the parent is out of touch with their child, but for the families of children with cerebral palsy, this is an unfortunate common situation. 

Children diagnosed with cerebral palsy have numerous factors that contribute to their difficulty in controlling their facial muscles, along with their neck and throat muscles. This includes articulation, fluency, voice, or dysarthria disorders, to name a few. That is why speech and language therapy for cerebral palsy is important: it provides an opportunity to enhance the child’s communication skills by improving their understanding of speech and language. In addition, it focuses on strengthening the facial muscles that are used for speech and communication, while improving their oral and vocal motor skills.

Interventions In Speech Therapy

20 percent of students in special education also attend speech therapy, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Though there is little data about how many individuals with cerebral palsy have hearing or speech impairments, a speech therapist is commonly recommended by a pediatrician once a child is diagnosed with a certain speech disorder. In addition, the number of devices in the marketplace has exploded within the past 30 years, and electronic boards allow children to use their hands or a pointer to express their thoughts. Similar to tablets, the boards contain letters, photos and symbols, which are touched with a child’s finger, pointer, or even eye-tracking technology.

Verbal communication – and whether a child can or cannot speak – should not be the sole focus of the interaction. Just as speech disorders should not be viewed as a disability that can restrict an individual’s life, effective communication should complement the family’s ability to get to know their child, no matter what barriers are in place.

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