placed here only to preload the colorbox scripts
Skip to Main Content

Understanding Dysarthria and How a Speech-Language Pathologist Can Help

Graphic of a brainDysarthria is the inability to articulate words normally because of impairment to the muscles used for speech, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, vocal folds, and/or diaphragm. The muscles may be weak or the person may have difficulty controlling them.

What causes dysarthria?

Dysarthria is caused by brain damage, which can occur at birth or later in life due to a neurological condition. The type and severity of dysarthria depend on which area of the nervous system is affected.

Conditions that may cause dysarthria include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumor
  • Brain injury
  • Low volume (soft voice)

What are the symptoms of dysarthria?

  • Slow, choppy or mumbled speech that is hard to understand
  • Slow or rapid rate of speech
  • Limited tongue, lip, cheek and jaw movement
  • Abnormal pitch and rhythm when speaking
  • Changes in voice quality, such as speech that sounds muffled or hoarse

How many people have dysarthria?

There is no official record of the amount of people who suffer from dysarthria because of its wide variety of causes.

Diagnosing dysarthria

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can accurately identify and recommend a treatment plan for those who have dysarthria. They will examine the movement of someone’s lips, tongue, face and respiratory ability. The SLP will also observe how the individual with dysarthria produces speech in various contexts.

Treating dysarthria

An individualized treatment plan will be developed depending on the severity and type of dysarthria. In general, treatment may include:

  • Focusing on slowing the person’s rate of speech
  • Improving their breathing so they can speak louder
  • Strengthening and coordination exercises for muscles used in speech
  • Increasing  movements of the tongue, lips, cheek and jaw through specific exercises
  • Improving clarity of speech through structured tasks
  • Providing loved ones with strategies to better communicate with those who have dysarthria   

Communication strategies for dysarthria

For effective communication between those with dysarthria and their loved ones, there must be strong collaboration. Here are some tips on how each party can better interact with the other:

For individuals 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 they understand you
  • Speak slowly and loudly, while pausing frequently
  • If you become frustrated, try using other methods such as pointing/gesturing to communicate or take a break and try again later

For caregivers and loved ones:

  • Try to reduce distractions and eliminate background noise whenever possible
  • Pay close attention to the speaker
  • Express when you’re having difficulty understanding them
  • Repeat only the part of the message you understood so they don’t have to repeat the entire message
  • If you still don't understand them, ask yes/no questions or have them write out what they’re trying to say if they are able to use written communication

The Speech-Language Institute of Salus University has a team of professional speech-language pathologists. They can assist those with dysarthria by evaluating the nature and severity of the condition and creating a customized evaluation and treatment plan. If you or a loved one has difficulty articulating words because of muscle weakness, we can help.

Schedule an Appointment