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Jeff Brody
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Cerebral Palsy and Speech Therapy

Cerebral palsy can affect the motor skills and muscle coordination throughout the entire body, meaning all muscles in the body are susceptible. Besides the extremities, such as arms and legs, muscles that control eating, speaking, and breathing can be affected as well. Usually, trouble communicating is an issue of a patient with cerebral palsy and speech therapy are can aid in establishing a communication method best suited for the individual.

Cerebral palsy and speech therapy have been intertwined since the first diagnosis of the condition and speech therapy continues to evolve as we learn more about cerebral palsy.

Communicating is difficult for children with cerebral palsy and speech therapy will relieve the frustration of communication problems, which often times affects both sides of the child-caregiver relationship.

Speech therapy helps the patient correct speech disorders, restore speech, use communication aids, learn sign language, and improve listening skills. The duration of a particular speech therapy program varies depending on the degree of cerebral palsy being treated, and the patient's response to speech therapy. Speech therapy is performed by a speech pathologist, and involves regular meetings with the therapist in a one-on-one or group setting, as well as home exercises.

The level of therapy is determined by the patient’s ability to communicate, and whether they’re able to speak or not. Some people with cerebral palsy have problems moving their mouths to form words correctly because of muscle control. Hearing loss can be evident as well in a person with cerebral palsy, and speech therapy can help them to speak more clearly. Speech therapists can also help them build their language skills by learning new words, learning to speak in sentences, or improving their listening skills.

To strengthen muscles used in speaking, the patient might be asked to say words, smile, close his mouth, or stick out his tongue. Picture cards may be used to help the patient remember everyday objects and increase his or her vocabulary. The patient might use picture boards of everyday activities or objects to communicate with others. Workbooks might be used to help the patient recall the names of objects, practice reading, writing, and listening. Computer programs are also available to help sharpen speech, reading, recall, and listening skills.

To help a young child with cerebral palsy communicate more effectively, there are several things that may help you with the process. It is important to look directly at them when speaking and talk slowly so they can learn lip reading and see how to mouth the words. If possible, use pictures or objects while speaking, and read to the child from books with bright pictures. Get the child involved in the story by asking for feedback like, “Show me the dog” or “Where is the baseball?”

With more severe forms of cerebral palsy and speech therapy at home that are not effective, a speech pathologist can bring in technological devices and other methodologies to help the patient communicate better. Sign language or special boards with pictures, words, or letters on them can help those with trouble speaking. Computers can be used for several different aspects of speech therapy. Computers can amplify a faint voice and teach special programs that are used to practice and enhance speech. Certain computers have programs that use objects or symbols as a way to communicate. These programs give someone that doesn’t speak at all the ability to communicate.

Cerebral palsy and speech therapy are a necessary combination in building a line of communication between the child and caregiver. Speech therapy will help relieve the frustration of mixed communication between both sides. A child that knows he or she is understood will have a generally better outlook when trying to accomplish other tasks. A speech pathologist can decide which types of speech therapy will benefit your child the most.

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