Dysarthria means difficulty producing speech sounds.
Dysarthria is caused by a weakness of muscles of the face, lips, tongue, jaw, voice box and muscles of breathing.
- Dysarthria reduces the ability of the speech muscles to perform adequately.
- Each dysarthria can be different.
- Speech may be difficult, but the ability to understand will be good, and intelligence remains unharmed.
- Dysarthria can co-occur with other communication impairments in which understanding, reading, writing and thinking may be difficult.
- People with dysarthria may not notice when their speech is unclear.
- A person with severe dysarthria may have little or no understandable speech.
- Some people will be able to communicate by writing or other communication aids.
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Dysarthria can look like this
- Slurred or unintelligible speech
- Speech is too fast, 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 and difficulty swallowing due to muscle weakness
How to get the most from your speech
- Ensure you are sitting in a good, upright position
- Face the listener, speak slowly and pause frequently
- Over-articulate sounds and syllables. Focus finishing the ends of words.
- Emphasize key words rather than using sentences
- Re-phrase if necessary
- Do not shout as this uses precious energy for speech
- Use short phrases or sentences so that you do not run out of breath
- When tired, keep speech to a minimum
- Supplement speech by an alphabet chart, gesture, drawing, 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 effort to listen carefully.
- Do not ask for complex answers. It will make the speaker tired.
- Encourage all speech efforts and reminding the person to use their strategies.
- Ensure there is a paper and pencil or alphabet chart 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 from a newspaper or magazine to practise speech.
- Do not pretend you have understood if you have not.
The speaker can become upset or frustrated.
- Remind the person that their speech will be worse when tired, upset or unwell. This is the time to rest.
Strategies to increase clarity of speech
- Slow - do not rush while speaking.
- Loud - try to increase your volume but do not shout.
- Over-emphasise - try to over-emphasise key words.
- 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