Cerebral palsy affects body movement, muscle control, and muscle coordination, which among other things, also affects a person’s ability to speak clearly. About 50% of children with cerebral palsy have communication disorders, and it’s usually caused by dysarthria.
Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that affects the muscles of the mouth, face, and respiratory system to become weak, move slowly, or not move at all. Children with dysarthria as a result of cerebral palsy often have shallow, irregular breathing for speech, potentially affecting the rate at which they try to speak. Kids also may have a low-pitched, harsh-sounding voice, with little pitch variation (onlinelibrary.wiley.com).
Cerebral palsy can affect parts of the brain and muscles in a child’s mouth that permit speech. Thus, many children with cerebral palsy have trouble speaking. Speech therapy can address different ways of communicating and address swallowing impairments. The role of the speech therapist is to gradually improve your child’s ability to form words and speak clearly. If speech isn’t possible, they can teach your child different means of communication, such as AAC or sign language. Moreover, children with cerebral palsy may have the tendency to drool or face difficulty when trying to eat. Speech therapy can help your child gain control over these muscles to slowly alleviate these issues.
Over the past few decades, studies have been done on the effectiveness of treatment for children with cerebral palsy. One study published in the Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology in 2010 investigated intensive speech and language therapy for older children with cerebral palsy. They found that intensive therapy that focuses on stabilising children’s respiratory and phonatory effort and speech rate could increase the intelligibility of their single words and connected speech. There was no noticeable change in the 6 weeks before therapy, implying that the treatment, rather than maturation or natural change, increased intelligibility. The results from intensive therapy therapy were maintained 6 weeks after intervention, during which they received no treatment, implying that the effects of therapy were maintained (onlinelibrary.wiley.com).
Another study, conducted by the School of Psychology and Speech Pathology at Curtin University in 2012 evaluated the effectiveness of the motor speech treatment Prompts for Restructuring Oral and Muscular Phonetic Targets (PROMPT) in the management of motor-speech impairment in children with CP. All participants in the study showed a significant improvement in performance level of motor speech movement patterns and continued to do so 12 weeks after treatment. All participants showed improved perceptual accuracy and speech intelligibility as well (espace.library.curtin.edu.au).
More recently, University of Strathclyde’s Anja Kuschmann is doing research that could eventually help kids with cerebral palsy speak more clearly. The research will analyse verbal patterns, breathing, and intonation (“prosody”) in young people with CP. Because the characteristics of CP vary from person to person, Kuschmann hopes that this will highlight new ways to provide customised treatments to every child living with CP. (www.medicaldaily.com).
Cerebral palsy is the result of a brain injury or an abnormal development of the brain. Although the injury is neurological in nature, it causes impaired movement, coordination, balance and posture, which are mostly orthopedic in nature. Every child is unique, and those who have cerebral palsy have varying degrees of impairment. In order to more understand your child’s disability, it is important for his or her condition to be classified.
At NAPA Centre, we offer weekly and intensive speech therapy for children with cerebral palsy. NAPA was built on the love that parents have for their children; founded in 2008 by a mother who dedicated her life to finding the best therapies for her son with cerebral palsy. Now, NAPA is a leader in pediatric therapy, offering the best and most innovative tools and methods from around the world. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customised program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.