Dysarthria is a type of communication disorder, often caused by brain injury or stroke, that result in problems in the muscles used for speaking, including the lips, tongue, throat, vocal cords and diaphragm. What is a common reaction to those living with dysarthria? “I Don’t Understand You.”
Dysarthria does not affect your ability to find the words you want to say, nor to understand others, nor ability to remember, nor to think. It is the outward communication that is impacted.
The Journal of Communication Disorders suggests that between 10% to 65% of individuals with TBI (traumatic brain injury) may experience dysarthria.
Your doctor or clinician may use one of these terms to describe your particular type of dysarthria:
Dysarthria is different from aphasia in that it is a motor speech disorder impacting speech; language comprehension skills are typically not affected as they are with aphasia.
Damage to your brain causes this disorder, whether it occurs at birth or after a neurological illness or injury. The following can cause dysarthria:
If you have dysarthria, your voice may sound different and you may have difficulty speaking clearly. Other people may find your voice hard to understand. There are several systems involved in speaking. They are articulation, phonation, resonance, respiration, and prosody and all of them can be affected.
Here are some symptoms, depending on which system is affected:
Dysarthria can cause affected individuals to lose confidence when talking. As a consequence, you might avoid social interactions and become even more isolated. But try not to do this.
A study published in The Journal | Disability and Rehabilitation found that “dysarthria can negatively impact speakers’ lives. Findings suggested that the experience of living with dysarthria is highly individual, but with common perspectives – six key themes emerged from interviews: ‘dysarthria as only part of the picture,’ ‘communication has changed,’ ‘people treat me differently,’ results in negative emotions,’ ‘barriers to communication’ and ‘life is different now.”
As one individual with dysarthria said: “Dysarthria is imprisoning, limiting my life to the people and places that I know. I would no more engage in a new friendship or relationship than fly. Dysarthria has robbed me of the confidence to try.”
Given how dysarthria can impact daily life, getting speech-language therapy after stroke or brain injury is critical. Therapy can encourage individuals to use speech more effectively, increase the range and consistency of sound production, and learn strategies for improving intelligibility and communicative effectiveness.
One example of intensive speech therapy for dysarthria associated with Parkinson’s disease is called LSVT LOUD. It focuses on helping individuals increase speech intelligibility. Another example of speech therapy is working on strategies to improve speech intelligibility, such as slowing down, speaking more loudly, and increasing articulatory precision.
The Speaking category of Tasks in the Constant Therapy app are designed to help improve word retrieval, motor planning, and speaking skills. But you can target speech goals with any of the 15 Constant Therapy speaking tasks. At the word level, you can choose from tasks like Repeat numbers, Name pictures, and Imitate words.
If you are practicing speech intelligibility at the sentence level, you can choose from tasks like Read active sentences aloud, Remember and say numbers, or Imitate passive sentences. Constant Therapy shows a loudness gauge so that you monitor how loud you are speaking. You can get feedback by listening to your recording, and try again if needed.