Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder. It results from impaired movement of the muscles used for speech production, including the lips, tongue, vocal folds, and/or diaphragm. The type and severity of dysarthria depend on which area of the nervous system is affected.
Common causes include neurological disorders such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, brain tumor, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS) as well as peripheral nerve damage and certain medications. Multiple speech subsystems including respiration, phonation, resonance, prosody and articulation can be affected, and the type of dysarthria a person has depends on which systems are involved and the extent and location of the damage.
A person with dysarthria may demonstrate the following speech characteristics:
- "Slurred," "choppy," or "mumbled" speech that may be difficult to understand
- Slow rate of speech
- Rapid rate of speech with a "mumbling" quality
- Limited tongue, lip, and jaw movement
- Abnormal pitch and rhythm when speaking
- Changes in voice quality, such as hoarse or breathy voice or speech that sounds "nasal" or "stuffy"
Treatment depends on the type and severity of dysarthria. In addition, dysarthria may co-occur with apraxia of speech and both must be addressed. Ultimately, the goal of dysarthria treatment is to improve overall speech intelligibility. In more severe cases, augmentative communication devices including communication boards and electronic/computer devices may be necessary.
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