Cerebral Palsy

How does Speech and Language Therapy help?


Cerebral Palsy can affect the muscles we use to talk, eat and drink, which means speech delays are common and there are sometimes issues around eating, drinking or communication.

Communication problems

Speech and Language Therapists can help someone improve their communication skills so they can make themselves better understood. This might be through learning new skills to articulate words more clearly, learning to breath differently, or learning to use an Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device (AAC) such as an electronic reader or a picture card system.

Speech and Language Therapy can:

  • Improve confidence and independence
  • Make socialising easier
  • Reduce self-consciousness
  • Support learning
  • Increase literacy

Eating, drinking or drooling problems

Some people with cerebral palsy have difficulty eating and swallowing (dysphagia) which can make it difficult for them to take on enough calories. Those with only mild dysphagia can avoid surgery (gastrostomy) by seeing a Speech and Language Therapist who can advise on making mealtimes safer and easier. Solutions might include looking at whether the child has enough head support, or whether the texture of the food is a part of the problem.

If speech isn’t clear the therapist can advise on strategies to make being understood easier. For example, learning to say something in a different way if you’ve been asked twice to repeat something you’ve just said. Or, learning to use breath and breathing more efficiently. Speech and Language therapists also advise on augmentative and alternative communication devices to learn language and also cope at school. Here are some of the areas a Speech and Language therapist might look at strengthening:

  • Articulation
  • Pronunciation
  • Fluency/stuttering
  • Listening
  • Pitch
  • Language development
  • Speech volume
  • Word comprehension
  • Word-object association
  • Breath support and control
  • Chewing
  • Swallowing
  • Speech muscle co-ordination and strength

What to expect

The therapist will assess a child’s physical and cognitive functioning, and use standardised tools to measure a child’s hearing, their articulation, language and fluency. All are designed to understand the child’s abilities and identify the best course of therapy.

Speech and Language Therapists use different kinds of exercises to improve communication:

  • Articulation
  • Blowing exercises
  • Breathing exercises
  • Jaw exercises
  • Language and word association
  • Lip exercises
  • Swallowing exercises
  • Tongue exercises


Finding a therapist

Speech and Language Therapy is available through the NHS and you will usually be referred by your community paediatrician. You can choose to go privately, or you may choose an intensive therapy block of trans-disciplinary therapy like Bobath where the therapist will work alongside a physio or OT.

Useful links

Capability Scotland has more information on ‘Drooling and Cerebral Palsy’.

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