Impact of Communication Breakdowns on Social Participation in Children With Cerebral Palsy

Presenter: Kayla Doherty

Research Category: Health Sciences
College: Bouve College of Health Sciences
Major(s): Speech-Language Pathology
Student Type: Graduate
Graduation Date: 2021
Award Winner Category: Health Communication

Over 60% of children with cerebral palsy (CP) have speech and/or language impairments, putting them at increased risk for experiencing communication breakdowns, instances in which a sender’s message is unable to be understood by a listener. Communication breakdowns negatively impact social participation because they pose a barrier to successful interactions and establishing relationships. The goal of this research was to gain a better understanding of how parents of children with CP respond to their child’s communication breakdowns and how the type of response relates to participation. Eighty-nine parents/caregivers of children with CP provided data regarding their child’s communication breakdowns and participation via a web-based survey. Differences in responses to communication breakdowns based on the child’s age and communication profile were investigated, as well as the relationship between frequency of communication breakdowns and participation. Results showed that children had increased frequency of breakdowns if they had both speech and language deficits, compared to children with only speech impairment. Additionally, results showed that more frequent communication breakdowns were linked to decreased participation. Parents of young children were shown to be more likely to prompt their child when facing a communication breakdown compared to parents of older children. This study suggests that decreased speech and language abilities leads to an increased likelihood of experiencing communication breakdowns, negatively impacting participation in life activities. These results indicate that clinicians should prioritize treatment of both speech and language deficits to maximize participation and quality of life for children with CP.