FAQs - AAC + cerebral palsy (CP)


  • Is everybody with CP the same?

No, not everybody with CP is the same and personality characteristics are as variable as in those without CP.  People with CP can have a variety of different movement characteristics, often described like this:  Children with CP can have either increased muscle tone (hypertonia) or decreased muscle tone (hypotonia).  Muscle stiffness can affect one side of the body (spastic hemiplegia)  or both legs (spastic diplegia).  Other types of CP affect balance and depth perception (ataxic CP) or cause both increased and decreased muscle tone that results in jerky movements (athetoid or dyskinetic CP).  The most severe physical  type of CP is called spastic quadriplegia, and it is characterized by stiffness in all limbs and loose neck muscles, which may make it difficult to hold your head up unaided.

Additionally, some people with CP can have what are called associated conditions such as epilepsy, visual and hearing impairments, a curved spine (scoliosis), communication difficulties, learning difficulties or delayed growth.

  • Why could an AAC system help?

Characteristics of some types of CP include difficulties speaking or controlling the parts of the body necessary to produce speech, such as the tongue, lips and vocal chords.  An AAC system can augment the speech skills the person does have or offer an alternative format to speech in order to facilitate language and communication skills. This can be helpful for both children and adults with CP.

  • What would be the best AAC system?

The choice of an AAC system depends on the person’s age, current abilities and circumstances.  There is no one-size-fits-all AAC system for CP.  There are a variety of options, though, and if uncertain it is best to seek advice from a speech and language therapist, or through a specialist AAC assessment centre (information about centres are available on this site).

  • What causes CP?

Insights into how this is caused and defined is continually changing due to increases in knowledge about foetal development and neurological change. Currently, cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain or brain stem, specifically the parts controlling muscles.  In 5-10% of cases, this damage occurs from asphyxia, a temporary lack of oxygen that can result from a complicated birth.  Sometimes, damage can occur after birth due to infection or head injury.  In the majority of cases, however, this damage occurs before birth due to a lack of blood supply, atypical brain development or prenatal bleeding in the brain.  

  • Who can help my speech?

A speech and language therapist is the best person to talk to about a person’s speech and communication.  He can teach a child exercises to improve breath control and the articulation of speech sounds as well as introduce manual signs, if appropriate.  A speech and language therapist will also be knowledgeable about various AAC systems that may support communication.


Things you might want to look into on this site:

Although this information is believed to be accurate, you are strongly advised to make your own independent enquiries.

Last updated July 2013