The risk of a communication disorder, hearing and speech delay, increases with a cerebral palsy (CP) diagnosis. It is important that the child receive annual evaluations, especially from birth to 3 years of age, to determine if the child requires hearing and speech services or communication support.

Cerebral Palsy and Speech

Speech-language pathologists/therapists (SLP) evaluate communication skills and treat speech and language disorders. This includes both receptive language, what your child is hearing and how they are understanding it, and expressive language, what your child is saying and how they are communicating with others. An annual speech and language screening during birth to 3 years will help determine whether factors such as motor skills, breath support, posture, oral tone and eye gaze are developing fully to support your child’s verbal and nonverbal communication.

Cerebral Palsy Communication

Early intervention for communication may decrease challenges linked to speech and language delays:

  • Speech that is hard for others to understand
  • Difficulty understanding language or expressing language
  • Literacy disorders, difficulty reading and writing
  • Social-communication disorders, difficulty using verbal and nonverbal language for social purposes

The Communication Function Classification System (CFCS) is a measure of current communication skills for someone who has cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Speech therapists can also evaluate and treat your child for difficulties with motor skills related to eating, drinking and swallowing.

The Eating and Drinking Ability Classification System (EDACS) is similar to the evaluations for gross, fine motor, and communications skills in people with cerebral palsy. It is also a five-level system which provides descriptions of the child’s ability to eat and drink. An annual, or yearly, speech and language screening (assessment) from birth to 3 years, will help decide whether things such as motor skills, breath support, posture, oral tone and eye gaze are developing fully to support your child’s verbal, and nonverbal, communication.

Cerebral Palsy and Hearing

Cerebral palsy communication devices can be very helpful -- A young boy sits crossed-legged on his bed while using his communication deviceResearch says that the most important time of speech and language development is during the first three years of life. Identifying hearing loss as early as possible allows parents to seek treatment options, to maximize and support the developing child’s communication skills. Children with cerebral palsy can have either a conductive or sensori-neural hearing loss. It is also possible to have a combination of the two. Conductive hearing loss happens when sounds are unable to pass from the child’s outer ear to their inner ear, as the result of a blockage, or a disorder of the hearing bones. Sensori-neural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the sensitive hair cells either inside the cochlea or the auditory nerve. Identification of new, or emerging, hearing loss, in one or both ears, followed by appropriate referral for diagnosis and treatment, are the first steps to reducing their effects on language development and communication.

The information from this page appears in our free and downloadable cerebral palsy tool kit.

Sources
  1. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, N. (2020, December 14). Your baby’s hearing screening. Retrieved June 09, 2021, from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/your-babys-hearing-screening
  2. Reddihough, D., Berkowitz, R., Reid, S., & Modak, M. (2011, September 6). A population-based study and systematic review of hearing loss in children with cerebral palsy. Retrieved June 09, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21895642/