DYSARTHRIA (SLURRED SPEECH)

Dysarthria occurs when the muscles you use to talk are damaged, paralyzed, or weakened. As a result, you may struggle to speak clearly or need to repeat yourself often because others find your speech difficult to understand. You may find you are speaking too quickly, too slowly, too softly, or your voice has changed in some way. Dysarthria is the result of brain damage causing 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 breathing muscles. Dysarthria can often be seen following a stroke, but can also 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, hoarse, or sounding nasally as if you have a cold


Dysarthria can occur at any stage in life, either at birth, following an illness or injury, or later in life following a stroke or as a result of a brain tumor. 

 

What does a dysarthria assessment look like?

 

If there are changes in your speech, it is important to 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 including jaw, lips, tongue, and the breath (diaphragm and lungs). We will also assess 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 approaches. These may include working on your breath to increase your loudness; slow down your overall rate of speech; increase the strength of your mouth muscles; exercises and practice saying words moving your lips and tongue more; and practice 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.