We use many muscles to talk. These include muscles in our face, lips, tongue, and throat, as well as muscles for breathing. It is harder to talk when these muscles are not functioning properly, due to weakness or with challenges related to control/coordination. Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that impacts these muscles and can be mild or severe (www.asha.org)
Causes of Dysarthria
Brain damage causes dysarthria. It can happen at birth or after an illness or injury. Anything that causes brain damage can cause dysarthria, such as:
- Brain injury
- Parkinson's disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS
- Huntington's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cerebral palsy
- Muscular dystrophy (www.asha.org)
Signs of Dysarthria
If you have dysarthria you may:
- Have "slurred" or "mumbled" speech that can be hard to understand.
- Speak slowly.
- Talk too fast.
- Speak softly.
- Not be able to move your tongue, lips, and jaw very well.
- Sound robotic or choppy.
- Have changes in your voice. You may sound hoarse or breathy. Or, you may sound like you have a stuffy nose or are talking out of your nose. (www.asha.org)
Speech-Language Pathology Evaluation & Therapy
Assessment of individuals with suspected dysarthria should be conducted by a Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) as they have specialty training in evaluating individuals motor speech difficulties such as dysarthria.
The goal of the dysarthria assessment is to
- Describe perceptual characteristics of the individual's speech and relevant physiologic findings;
- Describe speech subsystems affected (i.e., articulation, phonation, respiration, resonance, and prosody) and the severity of impairment for each;
- Identify other systems and processes that may be affected (e.g., swallowing, language, cognition); and
- Assess the impact of the dysarthria on speech intelligibility and naturalness, communicative efficiency and effectiveness, and participation. (www.asha.org)
Consistent with the WHO's ICF framework (WHO, 2001), the goal of intervention is to help the individual achieve the highest level of independent function for participation in daily living.
Treatment can be restorative (i.e., aimed at improving or restoring impaired function) and/or compensatory (i.e., aimed at compensating for deficits not amenable to retraining).
Treatment is not always restorative or compensatory. Sometimes, it is directed at preserving or maintaining function, such as when an individual has a slowly progressing degenerative disease. (www.asha.org)
Tips for Talking With Someone Who Has Dysarthria
Good communication depends on both the person speaking and the person listening. Here are some tips for both of you.
Tips for You
If you have dysarthria, here are some tips for you:
- Say one word or phrase before starting to talk in sentences. This will tell the listener what the topic is and help them understand what you say. For example, you can say "dinner" before starting to talk about what you want to eat.
- Check with listeners to make sure that they understand you.
- Speak slowly and loudly. Pause to let the other person think about what you have said.
- Try not to talk a lot when you are tired. Your speech may be harder to understand.
- Try pointing, drawing, or writing when you have trouble talking. (www.asha.org)
Tips for the Listener
Share these tips with your family and friends:
- Talk to me in a quiet area with good lighting.
- Pay attention to me when I talk.
- Watch me as I talk. This may help you understand what I say.
- Let me know when you have trouble understanding me. Don't pretend to understand me.
- Repeat the part of what I said that you understood. Then I will not have to start all over again.
- If you still don't understand me, ask me yes or no questions. Or, ask me to point or write down what I am saying. (www.asha.org)
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) www.asha.org
Academy of Neurological Communication Sciences & Disorders (ANCDS) www.ancds.org
ALS Association – Upstate NY Chapter Local Care Services | The ALS Association
Multiple Sclerosis Society Home | National Multiple Sclerosis Society (nationalmssociety.org)
National Parkinson Foundation Parkinson's Foundation | Better Lives. Together.
American Stroke Association American Stroke Association
Flaccid dysarthria - YouTube