Published On: Thu, Aug 18th, 2016

How Speech Therapy Can Help Manage Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is defined as a neurological disorder caused by brain trauma or abnormal development before, during birth or immediately after birth. Cerebral palsy affects the muscles and one’s control over them. Cerebral palsy affects gross motor movements (including body movement, muscle control, muscle tone, and reflexes, as well as posture and balance), the movement of fine motor skills and oral motor movements.

photo Tharshika Parameswaran via pixabay

photo Tharshika Parameswaran via pixabay

There are many muscles and structures involved in speaking, chewing, and swallowing and individuals with cerebral palsy may have difficulty with some or all of these processes because of their lack of muscle control. According to the speech therapist experts at Simone Friedman speech therapy in Toronto, a speech language pathologist can work to improve oral functions and improve oral communication through speech therapy at the clinical level. If speech is not a reliable option for communication, a speech-language pathologist will work with the client to use another form of communication such as gestures or visual communication. Speech pathologists can also work with the individual to improve nutrition and reduce the risk of difficulty in swallowing.

Many different exercises are used in the treatment of speech and each child’s treatment plan will be different according to their individual needs and challenges. Speech therapy is different for each child with cerebral palsy; during the preliminary session, the speech therapist will conduct an initial assessment of the physical and cognitive functioning of the child and this assessment may include a review of his or her case history, an examination of the oral cavity, audiology tests, evaluations of joint assessments and language fluency and cognitive assessments as well.

After initial assessments, the speech therapist can then determine the diagnosis of the child and create a comprehensive and understandable treatment plan. Treatment usually consists of exercises tailored to specific struggles the child has with communication or swallowing. Additionally, functional communication devices and sign language are often used to help the child express him or herself. These are particularly useful in the most serious cases, such as when children are completely nonverbal.

A few examples of common exercises for speech therapy used at Simone Friedman SLS include:

Articulation Therapy – Using word and language cards to help children focus on specific sounds; encouraging children to make sounds while looking in the mirror can also help them understand how their mouths move.

Blowing Exercises – Blowing bubbles or whistling in order to train the mouth muscles to produce certain sounds can also help strengthen abdominals for breath control.

Language and Free Word Association – Using specific flashcards with different words and their corresponding can help with muscle memory as well as putting together puzzle pieces with words that go together, such as “hat” and “head”.

Breathing Exercises – Working on inhalation and exhalation in tandem in order to strengthen the diaphragm.

Jaw Exercises – Eating foods that require extra chewing, such as celery, apples and carrots, help to strengthen jaw muscles; practicing opening and shutting their mouths using only the jaw muscles while someone else holds their chin can also be a helpful exercise.

Lip Exercises – Squeezing their lips around a lollipop to increase strength or pursing their lips to kiss a lollipop to improve lip extension are additional forms of therapy.

To learn more about speech therapy in Toronto or the wider GTA area, consider contacting a local speech therapy clinic or beginning your own research online into how a speech language pathologist can help mitigate the effects of cerebral palsy in someone you know.

Author: Anwar Hossain

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