Ask a Therapist: Developmental Delay and Cerebral Palsy

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Hi, I have two clients that I need assistance with.

The first little girl is 5 years old and has developmental delay.  She is mostly non-verbal and communicates using Makaton.  We have used various bits of TalkTools equipment, combined with speech sound work (discrimination and encouragement to imitate single sounds).  So far we have worked through the straw hierarchy (as best we can given her level of understanding) and this has improved tongue retraction.  We have also used tongue depressor with pennies between the lips and she has enough strength to hold 3 pennies on each end without difficulty.  This has improved her lip closure and has stopped her dribbling but we have yet to hear her make any p, b or m sounds.  We have also been using the tubes and bite blocks for vowel sounds but she is still unable to imitate any vowels although can produce some spontaneously.  Her babble has really improved and she is making lots more involuntary vowel and consonant sounds but nothing on cue, and occasional approximation of words in the correct situation.  I have tried to work through the horn hierarchy and the bubble hierarchy but she is unable to blow.  She has just started to wobble the bubble on the wand by vocalizing but I don’t know how to get her to understand how to blow.  Do you have any ideas about where I should go next?

This is a very involved case - I will say that if she can't blow, she can't phonate and you need pre phonatory work to expand the rib cage. You may also need to order the exercises more carefully rather than bits and pieces. For example, sensory tasks such as Lori's mouse ears helps with the feel of the /m/ (see "Feeding Therapy: A Sensory Motor Approach" by Lori Overland).  Next feeding, then Oral Placement Therapy (OPT), then shaping OPT to Speech with Renee Roy Hill's Apraxia Kit.  This is a child who can't respond to "look at me and say what I say" so I'd skip the traditional auditory drills.  It sounds like Apraxia, so you need to be consistent each session and ensure there is true mastery at each level of the hierarchies.

The second little girl is the same age and has cerebral palsy. We have been doing similar things although she is able to make a noise through the horns but is unable to do so without vocalizing at the same time. She is able to blow bubbles well through a small piece of straw but is unable to coordinate her mouth to blow bubbles without physically having the straw in her mouth. Do you have any ideas for how to get around this?

Slowly shape the movement.  For example, 9x using bubble tube 1x without. Make sure they are practicing the best level in therapy at home daily and that the tube is wide enough that the lips are truly rounded - if you need a larger tube use the jaw closure kit. As far as voicing into the horn, that is a motor planning issue.  I usually use modeling, "quiet blowing" and if needed I whisper "hoo" with no voicing to help. These are the same kids that can not turn the voice on either but practice often helps. Make sure there's adequate posture to support the phonation tasks.

Best,

Robyn Merkel-Walsh

Apraxia apraxia kit apraxia program Ask a Therapist bubble hierarchy bubble kit bubble therapy bubble tube Cerebral Palsy developmental delay horn blowing horn kit jaw closure tubes lip closure lip rounding Lori Overland Makaton Oral Placement Therapy Renee Roy Hill Robyn Merkel-Walsh sensory processing disorder sound production speech sound production straw hierarchy straw kit tongue depressor tongue retraction vocalization vowel production vowel sound

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