Ataxia is a condition that affects muscle control and can cause problems with walking, eye-movements, and speech.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ATAXIA?
The symptoms of ataxia may include:
- A lack of coordination
- Difficulty walking
- Changes in fine motor skills such as eating and writing
- Changes in speech
- Involuntary back-and-forth eye movements
- Difficulty swallowing
WHAT CAUSES ATAXIA?
Ataxia can be caused by damage to the part of your brain that controls muscle coordination. Ataxia can also be caused by alcohol abuse, certain medications, stroke, tumor, cerebral palsy, brain degeneration and multiple sclerosis or it can simply be a genetic condition. There are even some cases that the cause is unknown.
OTHER CONDITIONS CAUSED BY ATAXIA
Having ataxia may result in other conditions as well. Individuals with ataxia can also develop dysarthria, a speech disorder which causes changes in voice quality, speech clarity, the overall ability to be understood. Dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing) can be a result of ataxia. Among a host of other problems, ataxia can result in a frustrating inability to communicate effectively.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR ATAXIA?
Treatment options depend on the cause but can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Adaptive devices such as canes and walkers can help with mobility and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) can be a very useful tool in maintaining communication. Some cases of ataxia are temporary and therefore only require therapy for a time while others are permanent and individuals must learn an adaptive lifestyle.
AAC USE FOR THOSE WITH ATAXIA
Many people with ataxia caused by cerebral palsy find that AAC opens up a whole new world for them. AAC is a way of communicating that replaces speech or writing and allows people to communicate using gestures, symbols, and images. It is not limited to any specific age or ability level. Anyone can use AAC.
The use of AAC allows these individuals affected by ataxia to connect with their family and friends and it awards them their basic human right of the freedom of speech.
THE GIFT OF COMMUNICATION
Many people with cerebral palsy, especially children, need alternate ways to communicate. Pictures make it possible for these children to communicate. This alternative way of communicating, can be implemented by a speech-therapist or a parent at home.
Smarty Symbols is a set of communication images that was created by a Speech and Language Pathologist for use with people who have such conditions as ataxia and struggle to communicate verbally. The simple, clear images are easily understood by all who use them and make communication between those with ataxia and the world a whole lot easier.
So spread the word and together we will raise awareness for those with ataxia. Let us never take for granted one of the greatest blessings that we can have: the gift to freely communicate.
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