DYSARTHRIA (SLURRED SPEECH)
You may be struggling to produce clear speech, or often needing to repeat yourself to others because they are finding your speech difficult to understand. You might find you are speaking too fast or too slow or speaking too softly, or maybe your voice has just changed in some way. These are all signs of what is known as dysarthria, which is the result of brain damage causing you to have weak muscles in any of the following areas: the face, jaw, lips, tongue, throat, velum (the part that either closes off the nasal cavity or allows air to go through the nasal cavity) and muscles of breathing. Often dysarthria can be seen following a stroke or can occur as a result of a neurological condition such as cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease. Other signs of dysarthria include:
Slurred or mumbled speech
Choppy or robotic sounding speech
Difficulty moving your tongue, lips or jaw
Changes in your voice, such as breathy or hoarse or sounding nasally as if you have a cold
Dysarthria can occur at any stage in your life, either at birth, following an illness or injury or later in life following a stroke or a result of a brain tumor.
What does an assessment look like?
If there are changes in your speech it is important that you seek medical attention right away to determine why the changes are occurring and to ensure that they don’t worsen. After you have seen your doctor, a speech and language assessment can be conducted to decide whether you have dysarthria or another underlying speech and language difficulty. The assessment will include looking at how well you are able to move the parts involved in speech: jaw, lips, tongue and the breath (diaphragm and lungs) and how well these parts move during production of single words, sentences and finally in conversation to find out whether speech intelligibility decreases with increased length of speech.
What does therapy look like?
Depending on the type of dysarthria and the severity, there are several different areas that may be worked on in therapy including: working on your breath to increase your loudness, slowing down your overall rate of speech, increasing the strength of your mouth muscles, exercises and practice saying words moving your lips and tongue more and practicing saying certain speech sounds clearly in words, sentences and conversation. Therapy might also include learning communication repair strategies or other ways of communicating through the use of augmentative and alternative communication devices or through the use of gestures, writing or computers.