Children with cerebral palsy often suffer from impairments that prevent them from clearly talking or hearing other people. Fortunately, communication devices for cerebral palsy can bridge this gap. There are many types of these devices, including automated speech generators, hearing aids, and communication boards. Parents should consult with a speech pathologist to see how a communication device may help their child.
What Are Communication Devices for Cerebral Palsy?
Communication devices for cerebral palsy can help children with this condition speak, write, and hear others more clearly.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), these communication devices are one aspect of augmented and alternative communication (AAC). AAC is a term that refers to any type of communication that is not normal speech or writing.
AAC is one of the primary ways — if not the only way — that many children with cerebral palsy communicate if they have speech or hearing impairments.
Communication devices for cerebral palsy include:
- Communication boards and books
- Eye-tracking devices
- Computers and tablets
- Hearing aids
- Writing or typing aids
These devices are extremely beneficial, as most children with cerebral palsy will be impaired either in their speaking, writing, or hearing abilities.
Recent findings suggested that:
- Up to 80% of those with cerebral palsy have dysarthria, which affects speech articulation, according to data presented at a 2013 ASHA convention.
- 40% suffered from hearing loss, based on a sample of 940 affected children as noted in a 2018 study published in the medical journal Otology & Neurotology.
- Almost 50% of children with cerebral palsy suffer from arm or hand dysfunction, according to a 2014 study from university researchers in Belgium.
Parents of children with cerebral palsy can consult their child’s physical and speech therapists to see what communication devices may help their child.
Types of Communication Devices
There are many communication devices for cerebral palsy designed to improve specific impairments, such as a lack of verbal speech or problems controlling hand movements. Learn about a few different types of communication devices below.
A communication board lays out phrases or letters so children can simply point to what they are trying to say, rather than having to actually say it. This can save time and energy for both them and the person they are communicating with.
Communication boards come in many forms. Some electronic communication boards will say the selected phrase when a child presses a button. Other boards are simply sheets of laminated paper with letters or phrases.
Speech generating devices are not unlike computers, but they are designed more with a child’s disability in mind. The child can select words using either a keyboard, a head-operated switch, or even their eyes. From there, the words they have chosen turn into automated speech.
Eye-tracking technology can allow children to select options on communication boards or speech-generating devices without having to use their fingers or hands. Instead, their eye movements are mapped and used to make choices on the screen.
Hearing Aids and Implants
Hearing aids can help improve a child’s damaged hearing, which, in turn, may improve their own communication abilities. For example, if the child can hear sounds more clearly, they may be able to understand what others are saying to them.
Traditional hearing aids are tiny electronic amplifiers that sit in or behind the ear. For more severe cases of hearing loss, a cochlear implant may be considered. This device, implanted by surgery, sits inside the ear and can process sound into speech.
Writing and Typing Aids
In terms of written communication, children with cerebral palsy may have trouble using pencils or computer keyboards. Different assistive devices can help improve a child’s writing abilities, depending on their level of impairment.
Generally speaking, typing aids are secured onto the hands and have a plastic button at the end. Children then use the depressor to select the keys they need.
To help children write more steadily and legibly, weighted pencils, pencil grips, or writing boards can be used.
What Communication Devices Will Be Best for My Child?
This depends on your child’s specific health care needs. Some children may only be slightly impaired and not actually require a communication device for cerebral palsy. Others who need communication devices may prefer one device over the other.
Speech therapy for cerebral palsy can help children adapt to using communication devices, and a therapist can determine which device may be best for your child’s needs.
Where Can I Find Communication Devices for Cerebral Palsy?
This depends on what communication devices your child needs. Some devices (such as communication boards) can be bought online through various e-commerce sites like Amazon. Many websites also offer printable, low-tech communication boards.
For more high-tech devices such as eye trackers and hearing aids, you may need to consult with your doctor to see if your child can benefit from them.
Further, some school districts may also have augmentative communication devices for cerebral palsy to help children learn, communicate, and participate more effectively. Reach out to your child’s school to learn more.
What Other Assistive Devices for Cerebral Palsy Are Available?
There are other devices available to help children with cerebral palsy, no matter what challenges they face. These assistive devices are specially designed to cater to the needs of disabled people.
Important assistive devices include:
- Adaptive vision devices: Large-print books, magnifying lenses, and braille reading materials can all be used to help children with vision problems see or communicate.
- Wheelchairs and crutches: These mobility devices can help children who have trouble walking get around faster.
- House modifications: Safety railings, bathtub or shower benches, and adaptive chairs can all be used around the home to keep children safe from falls.
Parents looking to learn more about adaptive devices should consult with their child’s physical or speech therapists. These professionals can recommend devices that may help manage or improve a child’s impairments.