Cerebral palsy is the umbrella term given to a group of disorders that result from damage or dysfunction to the developing brain. This can be due to damage to the brain either during or shortly after birth. For instance from a lack of oxygen or extreme premature birth. Research also indicates that it can result from a series of events that can cause or accelerate injury to the developing brain. There is no single cause of cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is considered ‘non-progressive’, in that it generally does not worsen over time.
Cerebral palsy symptoms and signs
Cerebral palsy affects each individual differently. Some people have minor difficulties. Such as single hand weakness. Whilst others have significant difficulties across multiple domains. Cerebral palsy can result in these difficulties listed below.
- Functional movement
- Muscle tone, muscle control and muscle coordination
- Communication and speech
- Bladder and bowel control
- Hearing and vision
- Learning difficulties
- Intellectual impairment
While cerebral palsy is a permanent condition, it does not mean that progress and improvement in function cannot be achieved. Learning, growth and practice can lead to improved functional skills. Most people with cerebral palsy are able to engage in meaningful studies, hobbies and work.
Early intervention involves children with disabilities and their families engaging with therapeutic support. This is vital during developmental years, ages 0 to about 8 years. Research indicates that intense, individualised therapy can lead to positive short and long term gains. This means that a child can achieve increased independence across their lifespan. Therapy not only directly impacts a child with a disability, but also assists parents to gain the confidence and skills they need to teach their child.
What a speech pathologist can do to help people with cerebral palsy
Speech pathologists assess and treat people with communication difficulties. Communication includes speech, language, alternative forms of communication (e.g. signs, pictures etc) and literacy. A speech pathologist aims to maximise engagement in daily-life activities, vocation and hobbies. In addition to supporting communication, a speech pathologist also assesses eating, drinking and swallowing skills.
Below are a few ways a speech pathologist can assist a child, teen or adult with cerebral palsy
- Develop language and speech skills
- Improve speech intelligibility
- Educate and train parents in strategies to support expressive language skills
- Establish and develop a communication book or speech generating device as required.
- Establish swallow safety strategies and feeding practices
- Establish communication methods to enhance home, school and play routines (e.g. visual timetables or behavioural management strategies)
Speech therapy for people with cerebral palsy
This article was written by our speech pathologist Jenna Butterworth who is a Speech Pathology Australia member.
If you have questions about cerebral palsy or need speech therapy for cerebral palsy, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist. Contact us today!
For an insightful photo essay about managing with cerebral palsy see “The Mind Inside” with Denise Sherer Jacobson. Click here.
Cerebral palsy Australia (2013). Accessed June 21, 2013 from http://www.cpaustralia.com.au/index.php/site/home
Cerebral Palsy Alliance (2013). Accessed June 21, 2013 from https://www.cerebralpalsy.org.au/
Pennington, L., Goldbart, J & Marchall, J. (2005). Direct speech and language therapy for children with cerebral palsy: findings from a systematic review. Developmental Medicine & Neurology, 47(1), 57-63.