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March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

Updated: Jun 6, 2023


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 345 children in the US having a diagnosis of CP (Cerebral Palsy Foundation, n.d.).

National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month was created by Reaching for the Stars, an advocacy group run by parents who wanted to bring attention to CP and the children who live with it (Ellis, 2023).

  • The official color for CP awareness is green!

  • Want to learn more about Cerebral Palsy? Check out the Cerebral Palsy Guidance website - this is a physician reviewed website with topics ranging from awareness to inclusion, education, and more!

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 some myths surrounding AAC and CP.


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 is great! But that may not be enough to meet their communication needs across all environments and with all communication partners.

  • What should we ask? 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 bridge that gap!

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!

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.

If an individual's communication needs are not being met by their current mode of communication, whether that be verbal or gestural, AAC can help.

  • According to the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities (NJC) Communication Bill of RightsALL 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).

Want to show support this month for CP awareness? Wear green!


References:

  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Augmentative and Alternative Communication (Practice Portal). www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Professional-Issues/Augmentative-and-Alternative-Communication/

  • Beukelman, D. R., & Light, J. C. (2020). Augmentative & alternative communication: Supporting children and adults with complex communication needs (5th ed.). Brookes.

  • 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 13, 2023, from www.yourcpf.org/statistics/

  • Cress, C. J., & Marvin, C. A. (2003). Common questions about AAC services in early intervention. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 19(4), 254–272. https://doi.org/10.1080/07434610310001598242

  • Ellis, M. E. (2023, February 28). March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. Cerebral Palsy Guidance. https://www.cerebralpalsyguidance.com/2023/02/28/march-is-cerebral-palsy-awareness-month/

  • 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. https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2006/021)

Katie Threlkeld, M.S., CCC-SLP is a licensed, ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist and the Educational Program Developer at Forbes AAC. She has over eight years of experience in AT and AAC assessment and treatment with both the pediatric and adult populations. Katie has presented at the state and national level on AAC topics and she has University teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate level.

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