Individuals with cerebral palsy often are left with a number of problems, including the inability to speak. For this reason, speech therapy is generally an important part of treatment. However, sometimes speech therapy isn’t enough; there are supplemental tools that many need to be able to practice the lessons of speech therapy and to attempt to communicate outside of a therapy session.
1. Use Communication Boards
Communication boards are a great way of practicing words and phrases with your child. While your child may not be able to speak yet, or while he or she may still have problems with certain words or phrases, creating a communication board allows the child to still practice using that word or phase.
One form of a communication board could be something tangible such as a note card demonstrating that practiced word or phrase, or your child could keep a pad of paper with him or her, writing the phrase each time (this may be harder for children with more severe disabilities, as they may also have trouble with motor skills and may not be able to write). Sometimes individuals with cerebral palsy have laminated charts of pictures –such as animals, vegetables, foods, or other objects- and can point to these objects when prompted by a speech therapist or teacher. Other forms of communication boards could be technological. Perhaps the child has a tablet computer with a number of saved files that include pictures on them. Additionally, there may be apps on the tablet computer that allow the individual to communicate.
2. Use Technology for Communication Boards
Technology is a great resource for communication boards. With some apps such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) produced through Dynavox, anyone with any disability can use AAC as a means of communication. There are communication boards available on the app –simple phrases such as “I am fine” and “It is sunny outside”- and there is the ability to customize your own communication boards.
Additionally, those communication boards are used in the exercises so that the user can practice the function of those communication boards and then understand how they are used in the real world so that the user can use them in the real world with people other than close friends and family.
3. Use Communication Boards that Others Can Read
No matter whether you use tangible communication boards or digital communication boards, make sure that you’re working with your child’s speech therapist to ensure that the communication boards you do use are easy for outsiders to read. Additionally, make sure that the phrases your child is learning are phrases that he or she use often and continue to use with different kinds of people –everyone from people at the supermarket to their peers at school.
Select communication boards that they will use frequently, such as communication boards that serve as small talk, such as “how are you” and calendar- or weather-related phrases. By selecting these frequent phrases, your child with get optimum usage out of these phrases and learn about all of the possibilities of using that phrase. From there, your speech therapist can recommend adding new phrases and build on your child’s comprehension of language.
4. Boards First, Talking Later
Studies show that learners who start with communication boards learn language cognitively and though the words and phrases are internal, they are more likely to begin speaking.
By separating cognitive learning from speech pathology, the child can learn each separately, moving from one to the other easily and naturally.