Speech Therapy for Cerebral Palsy Explained
Most children with cerebral palsy have problems controlling the muscles in their face, tongue, jaw and chest. This limits their ability to produce sounds and speak correctly. Hearing loss can also cause speech delays and communication problems.
About 75% of children with cerebral palsy have speech defects. Luckily, it’s estimated that 50% to 70% of these children can benefit from speech training and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Speech therapy can help children control key muscles involved in forming words, making sounds and controlling their breath. This improves a range of communication skills from vocal clarity to listening.
Speech therapy helps children express themselves and their needs more easily, improving their relationships with others and giving them greater self-esteem, confidence and independence.
Research suggests that children should begin treatment for speech delays before the age of 2—around the time many are diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
During speech therapy, a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) will evaluate the child and develop exercises to improve their speech problems. For best results, children should attend 2-3 sessions of speech therapy each week for at least 6 weeks.
What Is Speech Therapy for Cerebral Palsy?
Speech therapy can help anyone with speech defects or language problems build the skills they need to communicate with the world. Speech therapy for cerebral palsy is often focused on strengthening mouth muscles and teaching kids how to make specific sounds with their mouths.
Your child’s speech therapist will design a custom treatment plan for them using therapeutic techniques.
Speech therapy typically involves different treatments, including the use of:
- Sign language, letters, pictures and written words
- Hearing aids for children with limited hearing
- Technology to increase speech volume for kids with faint voices
- Computer programs for practicing speech at home
- Mouth, tongue and jaw exercises for strengthening muscles
Since different types of cerebral palsy cause different speech problems, SLPs will individually tailor the therapy to each patient. Parents are expected to attend their children’s speech therapy so they know how to continue the practice at home with their child.
How Can Speech Therapy for Cerebral Palsy Help?
Children with cerebral palsy may experience many vocal problems, including:
- Talking too fast or too slow
- Slurring their words
- Stuttering or repeating words
- Trouble pronouncing specific sounds or letters
- Monotone and breathy speech
- Problems controlling the pitch or volume of their voice
- Tight or hoarse speech
- Discomfort or pain while speaking
In speech therapy, children will learn to keep their vocal pitch steady, speak more clearly and take deeper breaths. Practicing these skills can also help children who are having problems with swallowing, chewing food, drooling, heartburn and coughing.
Without speech therapy, many children will have ongoing problems with communication as they get older. Speech therapy aims to establish proper speech and language habits for kids that will improve their communication skills over the long term.
In speech therapy, children will get a better understanding of language and producing words. Therapy can help children learn to use words properly, engage in effective conversation, communicate their thoughts and reduce issues with pronunciation.
Benefits of Speech Therapy for Cerebral Palsy
Since language plays a key role in emotional, social and cognitive development, speech therapy has far-reaching benefits in children’s lives. When kids learn how language works, they can make better sense of the world around them.
Kids who participate in speech therapy may do better in school, have an easier time interacting with other children and join in activities that they could not do before. They also become more confident—something extremely important for kids with cerebral palsy.
Additionally, speech therapy can introduce your child to essential learning skills at a very young age. They can develop healthy learning patterns that benefit them throughout their lives.
Children with cerebral palsy often have a hard time communicating their needs to caregivers and family members. Speech therapy for cerebral palsy can make it easier for your child to express their thoughts and help you understand what they’re saying as well.
Speech Therapy Techniques and Exercise
The first thing that an SLP will do is assess your child’s abilities. They may ask you about your child’s levels of mental and physical functioning, examine your child’s mouth for shape issues and test your child’s hearing to ensure they can hear correctly.
Your child’s speech therapist will determine the biggest problem areas of communication focus on those first. They will only work on a couple of issues at a time rather than attempting to fix every difficulty at once.
Your speech therapist may use a variety of therapy techniques and exercises with your child, such as:
- Swallowing exercises to improve control of the mouth, jaw and tongue.
- Lip and tongue strengthening exercises using lollipops and tongue depressors. Chewy foods may also be used for jaw strengthening.
- Demonstration of proper word-forming techniques to help the child use their mouth and tongue form words, sounds and syllables. Children can benefit from mirrors to get their mouths to form similar shapes.
- Blowing and breathing exercises to help kids learn to form certain mouth shapes for producing sounds.
- Pictures and objects to build vocabulary.
Speech Therapy at Home
Parents play a crucial role in the development of proper speech habits in children with cerebral palsy. Practice at home is essential to your child’s success in speech therapy. Talk to your SLP about exercises and activities you can do with your child.
In general, try to talk slowly and look directly at your child whenever you are speaking.
You can help your child assign meaning to words by using pictures and objects while you talk to them. Whenever possible, encourage your child to speak in sentences instead of pointing or using single words. A good way to practice this is to hide a few of their toys and then have them explain where they found them.
Speech therapy is more effective when parents get involved. Try reading picture books and asking your child to point to pictures of certain objects to help them grasp the meaning of words.
Financial Compensation for Speech Therapy for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is often the result of brain damage before, during or shortly after birth. Unfortunately, many birth injuries are preventable. If you suspect that your child’s birth injury was the fault of your medical team, work with an attorney experienced in cerebral palsy cases to better understand your legal options.
Although your child’s quality of life is invaluable to you, speech therapy for cerebral palsy is yet another treatment expense. Legal compensation can help you cover the costs of your child’s speech therapy treatment and give you some peace of mind.
Contact Birth Injury Justice Center today at 800-914-1562 to have your medical case reviewed for free.