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