Cerebral palsy is one of the most common disabilities in the entire country, but the disorder can feature a wide-range of symptoms, depending on the version someone has. In every case, though, cerebral palsy limits a person’s motor functions. Unfortunately, this can include the muscles necessary for speech. Parents of children with cerebral palsy will need to work diligently with them in order to help their speech develop. The following will provide a solid overview of how parents will need to proceed.
The sooner you are able to recognize your son or daughter’s communication requirements, the better. With early intervention, an occupational therapist, speech pathologist or other type of professional can step in and figure out what kinds of education and training the child will most benefit from.
Early intervention generally means recognizing the problem before a child turns six. However, many experts agree that starting with a child before they turn one or two is ideal.
Intervening early on is also an effective way of understanding any factors that will limit your child’s communication skills. Many children with cerebral palsy will experience diminished sight or hearing, for example, though the severity of either can differ greatly. This is why addressing the disorder early on is so important. Some children will simply need nothing more than speech and cognitive therapy, while others may need specialized devices to allow them to communicate.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication
In cases where a child is unable to communicate in a way that others can interpret, there are a couple options that can help them. These are:
- Manual Methods: Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) can include things like handheld boards, body language training and traditional sign language. In each case, a child with cerebral palsy is given a way to express their thoughts and needs other than using speech.
- Electronic Communication-Assisted Devices: More and more options become available as the years go by thanks to the constant advancement of technology. For example, touch-pad devices are beginning to replace keyboards. Advanced hearing aids can now do more than their predecessors ever could. For those children who have a hard time pointing to things they want or need or pictures that would express the same, an infrared pointer is vital. ACC tablet applications and scanning devices can help in this regard too.
Other Important Tips
Understandably, many parents imagine the worst when they learn their child has cerebral palsy. They often believe that their child will never learn to speak or will simply refuse to do so, even if they are provided with devices to help them communicate.
Fortunately, studies have shown that taking advantage of AAC regularly will do wonders for a child’s speech potential, both in developing it and helping them to communicate.
It is also important that parents not dwell on their child’s ability to speak too much. Obviously, all parents want their children to be able to speak. Their first words are a milestone no one wants to miss. That being said, parents of children who have cerebral palsy are advised to focus on communication in general. Teaching them all the methods available to communicate will make it easier to understand your child earlier on and may eventually lead to speech in the future.
Given enough time and with the help of qualified professionals, you will eventually be able to discern the method of communication that works best for your child. Though it can be hard for them to express it at times, children with cerebral palsy have an amazing ability to pick up on new things, especially if they work at it regularly.
Communication is going to be tough for anyone with cerebral palsy, but that doesn’t make it impossible. With the right training and support, parents can help their children learn to express themselves.