Updated: Mar 12, 2022
Did you know? March is Cerebral Palsy (CP) Awareness Month! Cerebral palsy is the most common childhood disability with over 17 million individuals with cerebral palsy worldwide and 1 in every 500 babies born receiving a diagnosis of cerebral palsy (Cerebral Palsy Foundation, n.d.).
According to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, 1 in 5 individuals with CP are unable to verbally communicate efficiently and effectively (Cerebral Palsy Foundation, n.d.). Empirical studies have suggested up to 80% of individuals with CP may have impaired speech production (Mei et al., 2014) while up to 55% may have decreased functional communication skills (Kristoffersson et al., 2020). In these instances, the individual with CP could benefit from AAC as a mode of communication.
There are a lot of myths surrounding AAC that relate directly to individuals with CP. A few are covered in this blog post:
Myth 1: Some speech may be enough. This is not true! If an individual with CP has some level of verbal communication they use that’s great! But that may not be enough to meet their communication needs. Does their current mode of communication allow them to speak a wide range of communicative functions, to many different communication partners, across environments? Does their current mode of communication allow them to communicate about their safety, health, and well-being? If an individual has any unmet communication needs, AAC can meet those needs.
Myth 2: AAC is only for those without fine and/or gross motor deficits? This is not true! If an individual with CP has fine and/or gross motor deficits that impacts their ability to directly select buttons on their device with their finger, there are several alternative access methods available for these users to ensure they can access their device effectively and efficiently. Eye gaze, switches, or a head mouse - there are many options for these individuals! If you are interested in some of the alternate access methods we offer at Forbes AAC, check out this link! Alternative Access Methods | Forbes AAC | Augmentative Communication
Myth 3: AAC can impact speech development. This is not true! Research has found that AAC intervention does not hinder speech development (Cress & Marvin, 2003; Millar, Light, & Schlosser, 2006). All users will respond to AAC differently, however through AAC, users can learn language which may reduce frustrations and communication breakdowns due to impaired intelligibility.
Advocate for those with cerebral palsy who would benefit from AAC!
If an individual's communication needs are not being met by their current mode of communication, whether that be verbal or gestural, AAC can meet those unmet needs.
According to the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities (NJC) Communication Bill of Rights “ALL people with a disability of any extent or severity have a basic right to affect, through communication, the conditions of their existence” (Brady et al., 2016). Check out this PDF on the fully list of fundamental, communication rights here: NCJ Communication Bill of Rights (asha.org).
One of our friends, Kyran, has a WinSlate that he uses to communicate. Although Kyran is verbal, his intelligibility is impacted. With his communication device, he is able to utilize multiple modes of communication to maximize his independence. Be sure to check out Kyran, pictured above, using the WinSlate to build cars at the following YouTube link: Kyran M builds a car with his new WinSlate! - YouTube
Brady, N. C., Bruce, S., Goldman, A., Erickson, K., Mineo, B., Ogletree, B. T., Paul, D., Romski, M., Sevcik, R., Siegel, E., Schoonover, J., Snell, M., Sylvester, L., & Wilkinson, K. (2016). Communication services and supports for individuals with severe disabilities: Guidance for assessment and intervention. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 121(2), 121–138.
Cerebral Palsy Foundation (n.d.). Key Facts. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from www.yourcpf.org/statistics/
Cress, C., & Marvin, C. (2003). Common questions about AAC services in early intervention. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 19, 254–272.
Kristoffersson, E., Dahlgren Sandberg, A., & Holck, P. (2020). Communication ability and communication methods in children with cerebral palsy. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 62(8), 933–938. https://doi.org/10.1111/dmcn.14546
Mei, C., Reilly, S., Reddihough, D., Mensah, F., & Morgan, A. (2014). Motor speech impairment, activity, and participation in children with cerebral palsy. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 16(4), 427–435. https://doi.org/10.3109/17549507.2014.917439
Millar, D., Light, J., & Schlosser, R. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with developmental disabilities: A research review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49, 248–264.
Katie Threlkeld, M.S., CCC-SLP is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Missouri and the Educational Program Developer at Forbes AAC. She has over 8 years of experience in AT and AAC assessment and treatment across the lifespan. Her goal is to provide all AAC users and those around them with evidence-based information for best practice in AAC.