The effect of cerebral palsy on speech may vary widely based on the individual. Many who have this disorder suffer from a condition known as dysarthria, which is the inability to properly control the muscles of the mouth used for speech and eating. This may be apparent from shortly after birth if an infant with cerebral palsy exhibits trouble sucking from a bottle or breastfeeding. As children get older, they may have problems forming words, eating, and controlling the facial muscles.
Common issues with cerebral palsy on speech include slurred speech, drooling, slow speaking, an unusually low voice, mumbling, or an inability to pronounce words correctly. These things usually show up in childhood and may originally be signaled by a child's delayed ability to speak during infancy. The most common effect of cerebral palsy on speech is slowness in talking and forming words, although some may also speak too quickly and jumble their words together.
The main course of action parents can take to help children with cerebral palsy-related speech disorders is to enroll them in speech therapy. Therapists can help patients to exercise and gain more control over their facial muscles, take pauses in between words so they can be spoken more clearly, and practice forming various sounds. This often allows patients to communicate more effectively and gain more independence.
Sometimes lack of muscle control causes other issues aside from speech difficulties. Those with severe forms of dysarthria may also have trouble eating and suffer from malnutrition without medical intervention. These individuals may especially benefit from speech therapy because it will give them the chance to enjoy a wider array of foods. Occasionally, those with a very severe case will have to be given a liquid diet or be fed through feeding tubes.
There are a wide range of severity levels with cerebral palsy, with some patients experiencing very few symptoms and others having both physical and mental limitations. Since the condition is generally caused by brain trauma during or directly after birth, symptoms do not get worse with time and sometimes may improve drastically with proper treatment during childhood. Many patients are eventually able to speak effectively for proper communication, especially if there are no mental limitations.
Early diagnosis and intervention is crucial in offsetting the effect of cerebral palsy on speech. Specialized classes and schools are available in many areas to allow students the proper care and attention they need. These classes may be covered by some insurance companies.