Speech in Dysarthria
Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder. It happens due to the impaired movement of the muscles used for speech production like lips, tongue, vocal folds, and/or diaphragm. There are several types of dysarthria and it depends on which area of the nervous system is affected. Based on the severity of damage the symptoms vary in each type of dysarthria.
Causes of Dysarthria
Dysarthria is caused by damage to the brain. It may occur at birth time, as in cerebral palsy or it may occur later in life due to different conditions that involve the nervous system, including
- brain injury,
- Parkinson’s disease,
- Lou Gehrig’s/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis(ALS),
- Huntington’s disease,
- Multiple sclerosis.
Signs or Symptoms of Dysarthria
A person with dysarthria may show problems in walking, speaking, writing, etc. The following are the speech characteristics seen in people with dysarthria
- Slurred speech that may be difficult to understand
- A slow rate of speech
- The rapid rate of speech
- Limited tongue, lip ad jaw movement
- Abnormal pitch and rhythm when speaking
- Changes in voice quality, such as hoarse or breathy voice or speech that sounds “nasal” or “stuffy”
How is dysarthria diagnosed?
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) evaluates the person with speech difficulties and determines the nature and severity of the problems.
The SLP will look at the movement of the lips, tongue, and face, as well as breathe support for speech and voice quality.
The assessment will also include an examination of speech production in a variety of contexts.
What treatment is available for people with dysarthria?
Treatment depends on the type, severity, and cause of the symptoms. An SLP works with the individual to improve communication abilities. Some possible goals of treatment include:
- Slowing the rate of speech
- Improving the breath support so the person can speak more loudly
- Strengthening muscles
- Increasing tongue and lip movement
- Increasing speech sound production so that speech is more clear
- Teaching caregivers family members, and teacher’s 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)