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Treatment of Language and Communication in Children with Cerebral Palsy


  • Published: 2009-03-03 (Revised/Updated 2010-08-17) : Author: Snowdrop
  • Synopsis: Why language and communication development of children with cerebral palsy often fails to communicate.

We are the only species which uses the symbolism of language and when a human being is unable to do so, it causes immense distress.

Parents understandably want their child not only to be able to understand them, but to be able to communicate with them too. Interaction is fundamental to humanity, - in a way I think it defines who and what we are.

There are many reasons why the language and communication development of children with cerebral palsy so often fails.

What we do at Snowdrop is to treat these reasons sequentially.

First of all, we take parents and their child back to the patterns of initial interaction, which they have possibly missed. We teach parents to look for communicative signals given by their child and we teach them how to respond to those signals in order to give encouragement to their child to repeat them and to further expand them. Very often, these simple procedures can 'kick start' language development and we can then guide the child through the next stages.

Secondly we address any sensory distortions the child might be experiencing. This might mean the construction of an 'adapted developmental environment' as a temporary measure in order that we might train the parts of the brain which are responsible for sensory processing to 're-tune' their activity to a more normal level. Again this can often provide a boost to language development.

The third problem, which involves direct injury to the areas of the brain involved with language comprehension and production can be more problematic, but is certainly not hopeless. The reason these areas of the brain are not functioning correctly is the fact that out of the millions of neural networks involved with these functions have lost cells due to injury. Therefore individual networks are operating without their full complement of brain cells. The effect of this is that they operate less efficiently and language comprehension and production is constrained. We can however use stimulatory techniques to train these networks to operate more efficiently and can utilize the concept of sprouting (dendrites forming new connections, thereby enhancing neural network function), and the concept of neurogenesis (the production of new brain cells), in order to encourage neural networks to recruit new cells.

The final problem, the one of slower speed of processing is perhaps the most easily addressed. Quite simply, children must be given more time to process information, more time to plan a response and more time to respond. In this way they will not miss their turn in an interaction and will not withdraw into themselves in frustration at their failure.

Reference: If your child has issues with language and communication, or indeed if you are an adult who has suffered a brain injury and you are interested in Snowdrop's approach to treating language and communication difficulties, go to our website where you will find more information - www.snowdropcerebralpalsyandautism.com

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