What is Dysarthria?

Speech Image - 14Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder. The muscles of the mouth, face, and respiratory system may become weak, move slowly, or not move at all after a stroke or other brain injury. The type and severity of dysarthria depend on which area of the nervous system is affected. Some causes of dysarthria include stroke, head injury, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy.

Some signs or symptoms of dysarthria are:

  • "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") 
  • Breathiness
  • Drooling or poor control of saliva
  • Chewing and swallowing difficulty

What Therapies for Kids can do

Our speech-language pathologist (SLP) will:

  •  evaluate your child's speech to determine the nature and severity of the problem
  • look at the movement of the lips, tongue, and face
    evaluate breath support for speech and voice quality
 determine whether the person's speech problems are due to dysarthria, apraxia, or both

Treatment will depend on the cause and type, of the symptoms. An SLP works with the individual to improve communication abilities.

Goals of Treatment may include:Speech Image - 15

Slowing the rate of speech
Improving the breath support so the person can speak more loudly
  • Strengthening muscles
Increasing mouth, tongue, and lip movement
Improving articulation so that speech is more clear
  • Teaching caregivers, family members, and teachers strategies to better communicate with the person with dysarthria
In severe cases, learning to use alternative means of communication (e.g., simple gestures, alphabet boards, or electronic or computer-based equipment)

What you can do

It is important for a child with dysarthria and their family to work together to improve communication. Here are some tips for both the child (speaker)and parent/carer (listener).

Tips for the child:

  • Start with a single word or short phrase before beginning to speak in more complete sentences
  • Check with the listeners to make sure that they understand you
  • Speak slowly and loudly; pause frequently
  • Shorter conversations when you are tired,as your speech will be harder to understand
If you become frustrated, try to use other methods, such as pointing or gesturing, to get your message across, or take a rest and try again later
  • Young Children will need additional help to remember to use these strategies

Tips for the Listener:

Reduce distractions and background noise
  • Pay attention to your child
  • Watch your child as they talk
  • Let the child know when you have difficulty understanding them
    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