What is dysarthria?

Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder. The muscles of the mouth, face, and respiratory system may become weak, move slowly, or not move at all after a stroke or other brain injury or disease. The type and severity of dysarthria depend on which area of the nervous system is affected.

Some causes of dysarthria include stroke, head injury, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s Disease (and other Parkinsonian Syndromes), Motor Neurone Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Muscular Dystrophy.

What are some signs or symptoms of dysarthria?

A person with dysarthria may experience any of the following symptoms, depending on the extent and location of damage to the nervous system:

  • Slurred Speech
  • Quiet voice
  • Slow rate of speech
  • Very rapid rate of speech, which can sound jumbled
  • Limited lip, tongue and/or jaw movement
  • Difficulty with rhythm or intonation in speech
  • Changes in vocal quality
  • Hoarseness
  • Breathiness
  • Drooling or poor saliva control
  • Problems with chewing and/or swallowing

Communicating with a person with dysarthria.

It is important for both the person with dysarthria and the people he or she communicates with to work together to improve interactions. Here are some tips for both speaker and listener.

Tips for the Person With Dysarthria

  • Introduce your topic with a single word or short phrase before beginning to speak in more complete sentences
  • Check with the listeners to make sure that they understand you
  • Speak slowly and loudly; pause frequently
  • If tiredness makes your speech worse, try to limit conversations when you are tired.
  • Use other methods, such as drawing, writing, pointing and gesturing, to help get your point across.

Tips for the Listener

  • Reduce distractions and background noise
  • Pay attention to the speaker
  • Watch the person as he or she talks
  • Let the speaker know if you have difficulty understanding him or her
  • Repeat the part of the message that you understood so that the speaker does not have to repeat the entire message
  • If you still don’t understand the message, ask yes/no questions or have the speaker write his or her message to you