Information for the public

Speech and language

Difficulties with talking and understanding affect around half of children and young people with cerebral palsy. Problems with speech and language may or may not be related to a learning disability (having a learning disability means it is harder to learn and remember new things; this can also be called 'intellectual disability').

Early support to help improve communication is vital, so the care team should check your child's progress at every check‑up, and refer them if needed to a speech and language therapist. If they are able to talk, the therapist can work with them to make their talking clearer – they should offer help with controlling breathing, positioning and how they produce sounds.

Some children have difficulty using and understanding speech and need to learn a different way to communicate – these are called 'augmentative and alternative communication systems', or AAC for short. This could involve using pictures, signs and symbols, or communication aids (speech-generating devices). Your child's progress should be followed to make sure the system works well for them. To help your child communicate with those around them, everyone else needs to be taught the system too, including staff in nurseries and schools, carers and family members.

If your child has ongoing problems with communication they should be referred to a specialist service so that a system can be designed for them.

Questions you or your child may want to ask

  • What can we try to make my child's speech clearer?

  • Please tell me about the different types of augmentative and alternative communication systems.

  • How often will my child's speech and communication be checked?

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