Cerebral palsy can affect the muscles and motor function of the arms and legs, but it can also affect the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and other related body parts. This can make it especially difficult to speak, swallow, eat, and even breathe.
Cerebral palsy speech impairments are most common in children with spastic types of cerebral palsy. This includes the most common types of this condition. Between seven and eight out of every ten children with cerebral palsy have a spastic type of the condition.
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Children With Cerebral Palsy Can Have a Number of Different Speech Issues
Babies, toddlers, and children who have cerebral palsy can display a wide variety of issues related to speech and muscle control of the mouth, tongue, and throat. Before treatment, these issues can significantly limit communication as well as causing problems with swallowing and feeding. There may be additional concerns about comprehension that make it difficult to communicate verbally.
Some common speech and language issues in children with cerebral palsy include:
- The absence of verbal speech (aphasia)
- Problems pronouncing words because of issues with motor control (dyspraxia)
- Problems related to speech patterns and timing (dysprosody)
- Issues related to increased or unpredictable muscle tone in the face and mouth (dysarthria)
- Difficulty swallowing and related concerns (dysphagia)
- Articulation disorders, making it difficult to understand their speech
- Resonance disorders stemming from cerebral palsy affecting the vocal tract
- Problems comprehending language, usually linked to their brain injury or intellectual disability
Dysphagia is one of the most common causes of speech problems in children with cerebral palsy, but it can also affect babies and toddlers because of their inability to eat normally or swallow. This can cause numerous complications, including:
- Choking while eating or drinking
- Pulmonary aspiration and pneumonia
- Breathing abnormalities
When a newborn or baby presents with what appears to be a difficulty swallowing, this could be a sign they have cerebral palsy or another birth injury. They require a swallow study and follow-up care to ensure they can feed and get adequate nutrition. Poor nutrition can lead to problems with growth and an increased risk of infection, among other concerns.
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Speech Therapy Can Help Children With Speech Impairments
Speech therapy is often a part of the multi-focal treatment plan designed for a child with cerebral palsy. A speech pathologist can design therapy exercises and activities that will assess and treat the child’s speech, language, and swallowing problems. Depending on the child’s needs, this may address specific concerns including:
- Problems swallowing
- Chewing and eating problems
- Excessive drooling
- Muscle coordination and strength necessary for speech
- Word formation and pronunciation
- Speaking as clearly as possible
- Language and vocabulary development
- Engaging in conversations
In some cases, children with cerebral palsy speech impairments will likely remain non-verbal. Speech therapy can help these children express themselves in other ways. This greatly improves the quality of life for these children. Some of the tools and technology that may be available to these children and their speech therapists include:
- Sign language and other gestures
- Picture boards and related concepts
- Computer- or tablet-based aids
- Voice synthesizers
Speech therapy will not only teach these children to use these tools or devices, but it will also encourage interaction with others and help the child develop social skills and self-esteem. It can lay an important foundation for making the assessment of other impairments easier, as well. For example, determining problems with vision is much easier with children who can communicate.
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You May Be Able to Pursue Compensation
In some cases, cerebral palsy occurs as a result of a preventable birth injury. If your doctor or other medical care providers failed to prevent your child’s brain injury, or if they failed to diagnose your child as quickly as they should have, you may be eligible to pursue compensation to cover your child’s speech therapy, other medical care needs, ongoing care costs, pain and suffering, and more.
To learn if you have a viable cerebral palsy birth injury case, you need to talk to a medical malpractice attorney in your state. They will review your case for free, and explain your options and the deadline to take legal action in your state. If you have a valid case, they can build a strong argument on your child’s behalf and represent your family throughout the legal process.
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Talk to a Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury Lawyer
If you have questions about your options for possibly pursuing a medical malpractice birth injury case on your child’s behalf, most attorneys who handle cerebral palsy cases offer free initial consultations. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today at (800) 222-9529 for your free case review.