Cerebral palsy can result in some or many of a wide array of impairments or developmental delays, some minor, others major. For many children with CP, the ability to communicate effectively can be a real challenge. This may be the result of cognitive impairments, where they struggle with vocabulary and idea processing, or it may be more about the motor skills that govern the mouth, lips and tongue. CP related hearing impairments can also have a profound effect on a child’s ability to communicate. Learning complex language and speech skills is uniquely human. So is the ability to invent and utilize adaptive devices to aid those who struggle with this process.
Children develop and use language at roughly their own pace, but a child who fails to meet certain developmental milestones for communication should be tested for speech and hearing issues. Babies should react to sound from birth and even look towards the source of a sound by 6 months. If a child isn’t hearing sound well enough to react to it, they will have a difficult time learning to speak. Hearing screenings are available to infants of any age.
In our highly technical world, many new techniques and devices have been developed aimed at assisting young people with hearing and speech impairments in their efforts to communicate. AAC (Augmented and Alternative Communication) strategies and devices exist in many formats from high-tech to low-tech. With the proliferation of highly sophisticated assistive devices comes the fear that children will lose their motivation to attempt speech.
Before choosing which specific method of intervention or technology will be of greatest benefit to your child with cerebral palsy, seek the nearest rehabilitation or teaching hospital that offers evaluation and assistance in choosing AAC systems. Many of them offer assistive technology clinics where teams of AAC specialists along with speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists can work directly with AAC technology vendors to design a service plan customized for your child. Having all these professionals under one roof streamlines the process by facilitating effective communications between professionals you might otherwise have to visit individually in multiple cities. The result is an AAC system customized specifically to your child’s abilities and needs and the training that both you and your child will need.
Science has made mind-boggling advances over the past decade and there’s no end in sight. Laboratories have developed brain/computer interface systems that provide communication and control capabilities to individuals with severe motor disabilities.
VOCAs (voice output communication aids), such as those used by famous physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking, allow individuals with severe speech impairments to communicate verbally by using voice synthesizers filtered through computers, including laptops and hand-held devices.
It’s an undeniable fact that people with severe speech and motor impairments are having their lives changed for the better as a result of these amazing advancements in the field of assistive technology and augmentative communications. Some of the more impressive AAC devices and assistiveware applications on the market today include: Proloque, Proloque2Go, KeyStrokes, TouchChat, TouchStrokes, SwitchXS, LayoutKitchen, Minspeak, VisioVoice, GhostReader, Digit-Eyes, Pictello. Go to each products website to learn more about what systems the work on and other details.