For this weeks blog I will be discussing a motor speech disorder known as Dysarthria. Dysarthria is a type of disorder that causes individuals to experience weakness and slow movements of the muscles of the mouth, face, and respiratory system.  The type and severity of dysarthria all depends on which area of the nervous system is affected.

What are some signs or symptoms of dysarthria?

A person with dysarthria may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • “Slurred” speech
  • Speaking softly or barely able to whisper
  • Slow rate of speech
  • Rapid rate of speech with a “mumbling” quality
  • Limited tongue, lip, and jaw movement
  • Abnormal intonation (rhythm) when speaking
  • Changes in vocal quality (“nasal” speech or sounding “stuffy”)
  • Hoarseness
  • Breathiness
  • Drooling or poor control of saliva
  • Chewing and swallowing difficulty

How is dysarthria diagnosed?

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can evaluate a person with speech difficulties and determine the nature and severity of the problem. The SLP will look at movement of the lips, tongue, and face, as well as breath support for speech, voice quality, and more.

Another motor speech disorder is apraxia.. An important role of the SLP is to determine whether the person’s speech problems are due to dysarthria, apraxia, or both.  Being aware of the differences between dysarthria and apraxia are important for differential diagnosis.

Dysarthria: Dysarthric errors result from a disruption of muscular control due to lesions of either the central or peripheral nervous systems. In other words, there is an interruption in the transmission of messages controlling the motor movements for speech. Because it involves problems with the transfer of information from the nervous system to the muscles, dysarthria is classified as a neuromotor disorder.

Apraxia: Apraxia results from difficulties generating the motor programs for speech movements rather than from the disordered transmission of controlling messages to the speech musculature. Apraxia is a planning/programming problem, not a movement problem like dysarthria.

What treatment is available for people with dysarthria?

Treatment depends on the cause, type, and severity of the symptoms. SLP’s work in a variety of settings with  dysarthric individuals and works to improve communication abilities.

Possible Goals of Treatment

  • Slowing the rate of speech
  • Improving the breath support to increase vocal volume
  • Strengthening muscles
  • Increasing rang of motion of the mouth, tongue, and lips
  • Improving articulation so that speech is more clear
  • Educating caregivers, family members, and teachers about ways to better communicate with the person with dysarthria
  • Learn to use alternative forms of communication (e.g., simple gestures, alphabet boards, or electronic or computer-based equipment)

Below are some tips that can be used when communicating with an individual with dysarthria:

Tips for the Person With Dysarthria

  • Introduce your topic with a single word or short phrase before beginning to speak in more complete sentences
  • Remember to frequently check with listeners to make sure that they understand you
  • Speak slowly and loudly; pause frequently
  • Try to limit conversations when you feel tired, speech is often difficult to understand when not well rested
  • Other methods of communication can be used in conversation, such as pointing or gesturing, to get your message across, or take a rest and try again later

Children may need additional help to remember to use these strategies.

Tips for the Listener

  • Reduce distractions and background noise
  • Pay attention to the speaker
  • Watch the person as he or she talks
  • Let the speaker know when you have difficulty understanding him or her
  • Repeat only the part of the message that you understood so that the speaker does not have to repeat the entire message
  • If you still don’t understand the message, ask yes/no questions or have the speaker write his or her message to you

What causes dysarthria?

Dysarthria is caused by many different conditions that involve the nervous system, including the following:

  • Stroke
  • Brain injury
  • Tumors
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Medications

Hope you found this post interesting!





One thought on “Dysarthria

  1. Pingback: SLP Diagnostic Practice (Physical or Neuro-muscular) |

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