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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Treating Children with Cerebral Palsy

Published April 2, 2013 8:21 AM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling
As I began my search for helpful information regarding cerebral palsy and how it affects feeding and oral motor function, much of what I found included various cases that have been conducted on this very topic. Oral motor therapy has become quite controversial in our field of speech therapy over the past 10-15 years; therefore some of the literature that I found seemed somewhat confusing and maybe even contradictory. 

One fact I think any speech therapist who has worked with a child with CP can attest to is that in most cases, feeding and oral motor function is affected by this condition. How we treat these issues and ultimately help the children and families dealing with CP is where the debate begins. I thought a good place to start would be with providing readers with some statistical facts about the correlation between CP and feeding issues/oral motor dysfunction.

The following information was provided on the MY CHILD website which I found under their "Nutritional and Dietary Plan Counseling" link:

"The majority of individuals with cerebral palsy, 93%, will experience feeding difficulties. Since cerebral palsy results in impairment of muscle groups, facial muscles can be affected. The facial muscles are one of the strongest muscle groups in the body. Impairment hampers a child's ability to chew, suck, or swallow, thereby creating a high risk for undernourishment, failure to thrive, malnutrition, growth delay, and digestive difficulties. The following conditions are common in those with cerebral palsy:

  • 86% experience oral-motor dysfunction
  • 77% are diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux
  • 74% report chronic constipation
  • 60% present with swallowing disorders
  • 32% report abdominal pain

Other conditions include vomiting, chronic pulmonary aspiration, diarrhea, choking, drooling, flatulence, and pneumonia. The individual may take longer and experience discomfort when eating. He or she may also become sluggish from undernourishment, and dental problems may arise from excess drooling, longer meal times, or from stomach acids when aspiration occurs".

The site continues on to list over 45 resulting conditions ranging from abdominal pain, aspiration, bladder and bowel dysfunction, chewing, dental and choking concerns, delayed growth and development, failure to thrive and obesity, excessive drooling, and sucking and swallowing dysfunction as well as many others. Based upon this extensive list, it is clear that most individuals with cerebral palsy would have a need for some form of oral motor/feeding therapy when necessary.


Join me next week for a continued look at Oral Motor and Feeding Therapy for

Children diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy



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About this Blog

    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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