Dysarthria in Adults

by Care Speech 
25 January 2022

What is dysarthria?

Dysarthria occurs when there is damage to the brain or nerves resulting in unclear speech. This lack of clarity occurs because the muscles of the mouth, voice or lungs have become slow, weak, or difficult to coordinate. Common causes of dysarthria include strokes, head injuries, tumors, and cerebral palsy. Dysarthria can also be caused by diseases or auto-immune disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

How does dysarthria affect someone’s speech?

Dysarthria affects different people in different ways. For some people it is a mild annoyance and for others it can feel incredibly frustrating when they are unable to get their message across. It depends on the severity of the injury or disease, which part of the brain or nerves are affected and what is causing the dysarthria. You might notice:

  • Mumbling – some people with dysarthria sound like they are slurring their words, or it might be difficult to tell where one words ends and another begins. They may also sound like they have a blocked nose.
  • Changes in pitch and volume – some people with dysarthria speak in a monotone way, while others have difficulty controlling their pitch. Some speak quickly, some slowly, some loudly, some softly, and some have difficulty controlling their speed and volume. Dysarthria can also affect a person’s voice, making it sound rough, strained or otherwise different to how it has sounded previously.

What can a Speech Pathologist do for dysarthria?

Speech Pathologists are trained to diagnose and treat dysarthria of all types, causes and severity levels. Your Speech Pathologist will first want to know everything you can tell them about when, where, why and how your dysarthria first started. They will then want to know what is bothering you most about your dysarthria right now, and what you would like to achieve through therapy. Your Speech Pathologist will then conduct an assessment with you before making recommendations for treatment.

  • Assessment – your Speech Pathologist will ask you to complete a number of simple movement and speech tasks so that they can find out how severe the dysarthria is, which muscles and parts of your speech are most affected and the areas that would most benefit from intervention moving forwards.
  • Treatment – your Speech Pathologist will then devise a treatment plan with you based on their assessment findings and your goals for therapy. Your Speech Pathologist will likely work with you to implement both compensatory strategies (i.e. things you can do right now to make it easier for people to understand you even though you have dysarthria) and remediation strategies (i.e. therapy tasks you can do at home to improve your speech over time) across a number of sessions. Therapy sessions may take place weekly, fortnightly, or monthly depending on the severity of your dysarthria and how quickly you are improving.

How can I communicate with dysarthria in the meantime?

It can be frustrating to make yourself heard and understood if you are struggling with dysarthria. Here are some strategies you may find helpful:

  • Face the person you’re speaking to and make sure they can see your mouth.
  • Try the SLOP method:
    • Slow Down
    • Loud Voice
    • Over Exaggerate, and
    • Pause for a breath
  • Use facial expressions and gestures to help get your message across.
  • Try to say the same thing in a different way.
  • Swallow before speaking if your voice isn’t clear.
  • Stay calm and relaxed.

How can I support someone with dysarthria?

If you know someone with dysarthria, you can help them to communicate by taking these steps.

  • Avoid distractions – put away your phone, turn off the TV and make sure you can see the person’s face clearly while they are speaking. You can get a lot of information from body language and lip reading.
  • Be patient – give the person time to get their message across and try to avoid speaking for them. If you don’t understand, let the person know which parts of the message you do and don’t understand. That way you can work together to make the message clear.

If you would like to book an initial consultation with a Speech Pathologist from our team, please contact us on 1300 086 280 or at [email protected].

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