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Speech and Language Disorders among Those with Cerebral Palsy

If you are the parent of a child who has cerebral palsy, you may have concerns about speech and language development. This is completely normal, as it can impact these skills. However, with early intervention and therapy, most children with cerebral palsy can achieve optimal speech and language skills. This post will provide an overview of speech and language disorders among those with cerebral palsy, as well as information on how to get your child the help they need.


In this article we will discuss:


hypertonic cerebral palsy having speech therapy

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that impacts muscle coordination and movement. It

is a result by a damage to the motor control centers of the brain, which can occur during pregnancy, childbirth, or in the early years of life. CP can range from mild to severe, and symptoms can vary from person to person.


Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are four main types of cerebral palsy, each of which is characterized by different symptoms:

  1. Spastic cerebral palsy: This is the most common type of cerebral palsy. It is characterized by muscle stiffness and involuntary spasms.

  2. Hypotonic cerebral palsy: This type of cerebral palsy is characterized by low muscle tone and floppiness.

  3. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy: This type of cerebral palsy is characterized by uncontrolled, jerky movements.

  4. Ataxic cerebral palsy: This rare form of cerebral palsy affects balance and coordination.

  5. Mixed cerebral palsy: This type of CP refers to a combination of two or more of the other types.

Help children with cerebral palsy regain their speech

Children with cerebral Palsy usually has dysarthria.

When is Cerebral Palsy diagnosed?

Cerebral palsy is often diagnosed soon after birth. However, in some cases, it may not be diagnosed until early childhood. If you have concerns about your child's development, it is important to speak with your pediatrician.


Characteristics of Cerebral Palsy

In addition to the four main types of CP, there is also a range of symptoms that can vary in severity from person to person. The most common symptoms of CP include:

  • Muscle stiffness or tightness (spasticity)

  • Involuntary muscle spasms (dystonia)

  • Poor coordination and balance (ataxia)

  • Weakness in the arms and legs

  • Tremors or seizures

  • Abnormalities in walking or crawling

  • Delays in reaching developmental milestones, such as sitting up, standing, or walking

  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as writing or using utensils

  • Speech impairments

While these are the most common symptoms, it is important to remember that each individual experiences the condition differently.


What is Hypotonia?

Hypotonia is a common symptom of CP. It occurs when muscles are not able to maintain tension, causing them to feel “floppy” or “limp.” This can impact gross motor skills such as sitting, standing and walking. Hypotonia can also impact fine motor skills such as writing and eating with utensils.


What is Hypertonia?

Hypertonia is the opposite of hypotonia. It occurs when muscles are too tight, making movement difficult. This can cause stiffness in the limbs and trunk, as well as problems with coordination.


Cerebral palsy hypotonia at school.

Management for Cerebral Palsy

There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but there are a number of treatments and therapies that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. The most common management strategies include:

  • Physical therapy: This can help improve muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion.

  • Occupational therapy: This can help with activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, and eating. Occupational and speech therapy often go hand-in-hand when treating this population.

  • Speech therapy: Cerebral palsy speech therapy can help with speech impairments and communication difficulties.

  • Orthopedic surgery: This may be recommended in some cases to correct skeletal deformities or improve joint function.

  • Medications: There are a number of medications that can help relieve pain, reduce spasticity, and control seizures.

  • Assistive devices: These devices, such as wheelchairs, can help with mobility issues.

The type of treatment and management plan will vary from individual to individual, depending on the severity of symptoms.


Speech and Language Disorders in Cerebral Palsy

While cerebral palsy can cause a variety of different disorders, one of the most common is a speech disorder. According to estimates, anywhere from 50 to 70% of individuals with CP have some type of speech impairment. The severity of these impairments can range from mild to severe, and they can impact an individual’s ability to produce or understand speech.

Cerebral palsy can impact speech and language development in a number of ways. For example, difficulty with muscle control can make it hard to produce clear speech sounds. Additionally, because cerebral palsy can impact breathing, this can also lead to problems with speaking. Swallowing difficulties are also common among those with cerebral palsy, which can impact eating and drinking as well as speaking. Finally, cognitive impairments associated with cerebral palsy can also impact language development.


While each child with cerebral palsy is unique, some common speech and language disorders can occur. These include:


Apraxia

This is a motor disorder that impacts the ability to produce speech sounds. Cerebral palsy can cause problems with muscle control, making it hard to produce certain sounds.


Dysarthria

This is a motor disorder that impacts the ability to speak clearly. Muscles involved in speech production may be weak or have poor coordination. This can make it hard to produce clear speech sounds.


There are 4 types of Dysarthria.

  • Spastic Dysarthria: This type of dysarthria is common among those with cerebral palsy. It is caused by muscle spasms that make it hard to produce clear speech sounds.

  • Flaccid Dysarthria: This type of dysarthria is caused by weak muscles. It can make speech sound “slurred” or “mumbled.”

  • Ataxic Dysarthria: This type of dysarthria is caused by problems with muscle coordination. This can make it hard to produce clear speech sounds as well as make it hard to control the volume and pitch of the voice.

  • Mixed Dysarthria: This type of dysarthria is a combination of two or more of the above types.

  • Hypokinetic dysarthriaThis type of dysarthria is due to a lack of muscle movement. It can make speech sound very slow and monotonous.

  • Hyperkinetic dysarthriaThis type of dysarthria is due to too much muscle movement. It can make speech sound very rapid and irregular.

Dysphonia

This is a voice disorder that can cause hoarseness, breathiness, or pitch problems. Cerebral Palsy can cause difficulties with the muscles used for breathing, which can lead to problems with the voice.


Hypotonia Treatment for Communication

Dysphagia

This is a swallowing disorder that can make it hard to swallow liquids or solid foods. Dysphagia can also cause choking or aspirating (breathing in) liquids or food. This can lead to respiratory infections or pneumonia.


Aphasia

This is a language disorder that can impact the ability to understand or express spoken or written language. Aphasia is a result of a damage to the language areas of the brain. This type of disorder is more common among those with left-hemisphere brain damage.


Cognitive impairments associated with cerebral palsy can also impact language development. These impairments can make it hard to understand or process spoken or written language. Additionally, they can make it hard to remember words or to come up with the right word when speaking.


How Can I Help My Child?

If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, the best thing you can do is to seek early intervention and therapy services. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can assess your child’s skills and develop a treatment plan to help them improve.

If you live in the United States, you can contact your state’s early intervention program to start. In other countries, you can contact your local government or health department for information on resources in your area.

No matter where you live, it is important to advocate for your child and make sure they are getting the services they need. With early intervention and therapy, most children with cerebral palsy can make significant progress in their speech and language skills.


Speech Therapy Treatment for People with Cerebral Palsy

The type of treatment will vary depending on the individual’s needs. Some individuals may only need a few speech therapy sessions, while others may need ongoing support.

Treatment may involve:

  • Exercises to improve muscle strength and coordination

  • Practice producing speech sounds

  • Breathing exercises

  • Swallowing exercises

  • Assistive devices or augmentative communication devices

  • Cognitive-linguistic therapy

  • Social skills training

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can provide treatment for individuals with cerebral palsy. SLPs can assess and provide therapy for speech and language disorders. They can work with individuals of all ages, from infants to adults. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services for cerebral palsy, convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.


 

About the Author

Mikee Larrazabal


I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.


I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.

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