Patient resources Speech Pathology- Dysarthria
Dysarthria is a communication disorder that is caused by changes in the muscles used for speaking. These changes can be caused by weakness, incoordination, floppy or stiff muscles, uncontrolled or unintended movements. Your speech may become slurred and less natural sounding, therefore making it difficult for others to understand.
Dysarthria can occur on its own and at the same time as other communication disorders such as apraxia and aphasia.
Dysarthria can be caused by many neurological illnesses, diseases, and disorders which can either be present at birth or acquired later in life.
Dysarthria may be caused by
- Brain tumours
- Traumatic brain injury
- Brain disease that gets worse over time
Signs and symptoms of dysarthria may include
- Changes to the volume of your voice: too loud, too soft, no variation in volume.
- Changes to the pitch of your voice: too low, too high, no variation in pitch.
- Short phrases.
- Poor voice quality: rough, breathy, strained, and hoarse.
- Impaired articulation – distorted and less clear speech sounds.
- Hypernasality or hyponasality.
- Impaired rate of speech: too fast, too slow, accelerating, variable.
- Impaired stress in words or phrases: reduced, excessive and equal stress.
Clear speaking strategies for those with dysarthria
- Listen to yourself as you speak – does your speech sound as clear as you can make it?
- Make an effort to speak more slowly than usual – it really does help.
- Split up what you want to say into short phrases, so that you do not run out of air.
- Make sure your listener can see you clearly and keep good eye contact with them; get their attention before you speak, sit in a good light, and face them straight on.
- Check back that you have been understood; you may be able to tell by the person’s face that they haven’t caught what you said- if in doubt, ask them directly.
- Be prepared to repeat yourself, or rephrase what you have said – it may be a good precaution to do this if you are saying something particularly important.
- Use other ways of getting your message across, if necessary – for example, use gestures, facial expressions, writing or drawing.
Tips for communicating with someone with dysarthria
- Modify the environment: reduce background noise (e.g., turn off the TV/radio), find a quiet place to talk.
- Remember that the person’s intelligence is not affected; they just have a problem with speaking
- Allow the person plenty of time to talk, make eye contact and face them directly.
- Use and accept alternate modes such as gesture, body language and tone of voice as communication. Do not pressure a person to use speech, as this may increase their frustration and reduce their likelihood of using their limited speech.
- Be prepared for fluctuations in communication ability from day to day.
- Take break from communication-based activities; instead, listen to music, walk in the garden, or try craft and hobbies as outlets.
For more information
- Contact a speech pathologist
- Talk to your doctor
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