Part five of my Speech Development and Disorders Series
What is dysarthria? Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder resulting in weakness, paralysis or incoordination in the muscles needed for producing speech (jaw, lips, tongue, palate, and respiratory system).
What causes dysarthria? Dysarthria is a neuromuscular impairment caused by some degree of damage central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or the peripheral nervous system (the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord). Common injury that can result in dysarthria include traumatic brain injury, stroke, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. Sometimes the exact cause is unknown.There are six different types of dysarthria (with differing characteristics) depending on what area of the nervous system has been effected.
What are some signs and symptoms of dysarthria? Symptoms will vary depending on the exact area of the nervous system that have been damaged. From the ASHA website:
- “Slurred” speech
- Speaking softly or barely able to whisper
- Slow rate of speech
- Rapid rate of speech with a “mumbling” quality
- Limited tongue, lip, and jaw movement
- Abnormal intonation (rhythm) when speaking
- Changes in vocal quality (“nasal” speech or sounding “stuffy”)
- Drooling or poor control of saliva
- Chewing and swallowing difficulty
How is dysarthria diagnosed? Dysarthria can be diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist after a full evaluation that may include the following:
- Thoroughly interview the client (child or adult) and caregivers.
- A very thorough developmental history of the child, or for an adult, a full medical history
- Perform an oral-motor skill exam (looking for signs of weakness of the oral structures and articulators; examine how well the child or adult can coordinate non-speech movement in the oral structure such as moving the tongue back and forth, smiling, frowning, puckering lips); evaluate how the child or adult coordinates and sequences motor movements for speech; and examining the child or adult’s ability to perform automatic and non automatic movements-like licking a real sucker and licking a â€œfakeâ€ sucker).
- Perform an assessment on the adult or child’s voice and respiratory skills for speech
- Take a speech sample to analyze for the type of errors, consistency of errors, intelligibility, rate of speech, and prosody
- May also perform either a formal or informal assessment of the child or adult’s receptive and expressive language skills to rule out any other disorders or delays relating to language abilities.
What is the treatment for dysarthria? The exact treatment measures will vary based on the specific type of dysarthria and its severity. The over-all with dysarthria is to teach the person compensatory strategies to increase overall speech intelligibility. A speech-language pathologist may work with the child or adult to teach them how to:
- Reduce their speech rate (slow down their speech) and/or reduce the length of their utterances
- Use strategies to make their articulation skills and speech sounds more clear and defined
- Improve breath support for speech
- Strengthen the muscles used for speech
- In severe cases, teach them how to use an alternative ir augmentative form of communicating like simple signs or gestures, a picture communication system, or a computerized speech output device.
Where can I get more information on dysarthria?
The American Speech-Language Hearing Association has some information HERE
The Mayo Clinic has some information HERE
American Speech-Language Hearing Association Website (2011). Dysarthria. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/dysarthria.htm (10-1-2011).
Bowen, Caroline, (1998). Children’s Speech Sound Disorders: Questions and Answers. Retrieved from http://speech-language-therapy.com/phonol-and-artic.htm (10-1-2011).
Shipley, K.G. & McAfee, J.G.,(1998). Assessment in speech-language pathology: A resource manual (2nd edition). San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group.
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