Dysarthria a difficulty producing speech sounds characterised by a weakness of the muscles used in speech production.
These muscles include the face, lips, tongue, jaw, voice box and muscles of breathing.
To produce 'normal' speech, 140,000 muscle movements per second are required. These need to be fast, accurate and coordinated. Dysarthria reduces the ability of the speech muscles to perform adequately.
The degree and nature of dysarthria can vary considerably. Although speech is difficult, the ability to understand will not be affected, and intelligence remains unharmed. (Please note: Dysarthria may co-occur with other communication/speech impairments in which understanding, reading, writing and cognition may also be impacted).
People with dysarthria may not always notice when their speech is unclear so it is important to follow the advice in this leaflet. A person with severe dysarthria may have little or no understandable speech. Some people will often be able to communicate by writing or by use of other communication aids.
Symptoms may include:
- Slurred or unintelligible speech
- Speech which is too fast or too slow or too quiet
- Running out of breath when speaking
- A voice which sounds harsh, strained or breathy
- Changes in pitch causing the speaker to sound 'monotonous'
- Drooling of saliva (One side of the face may be weaker than the other. Weakness of the tongue and lips may mean there is dribbling of saliva, food and drink, and the ability to swallow may also be affected).
How to get the most from your speech:
- Poor posture can affect breathing, which in turn can affect speech. Try to ensure you are sitting in a good, upright position
- Face the listener. Speak slowly - one word at a time. Pause frequently
- Over-articulate sounds and syllables. Emphasise the ends of words which otherwise may get 'lost'
- Emphasise key words rather than always using full sentences
- Re-phrase if necessary
- Try not to shout as this uses precious energy for speech
- Use short phrases or sentences so that you do not run out of breath
- Keep speech to a minimum when tired
- Use any means of communication to supplement speech, e.g. alphabet chart, gesture, drawing. Keep a paper and pencil nearby for writing.
How the listener can help:
- Ensure the surroundings are quiet and free from distractions
- Be patient and tolerant. Give positive feedback when you have understood. Give the person time to talk
- Repeat back the part of the message you have understood.
- Maintain close eye contact so you can watch the speaker's facial expression and make extra effort to listen carefully
- Do not request lengthy, complex responses as this will make the speaker over-tired
- Encourage all speech efforts, reminding the person to go slowly, to use one or two words at a time and pause regularly
- Ensure there is a paper and pencil or alphabet chart to use to supplement speech
- If writing is unclear, use a list of words to be pointed to, or encourage drawing
- Help the person to read aloud slowly and deliberately from a newspaper or magazine to practice speech
- Do not pretend you have understood if you have not. The speaker may realise and become upset or frustrated
- Remind the person that their speech will be worse when tired, upset or unwell. This is the time to rest.
REMEMBER! Strategies to increase clarity of speech
- Slow - do not rush whilst speaking
- Loud - try to increase your volume but be careful not to shout
- Over-emphasise - try to overemphasise keywords
- Pause - make sure you pause in between each word
If you require any more information, go to the Stroke Association website: www.stroke.org.uk