Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder caused by damage to the nervous system. Common causes of dysarthria include stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Some individuals are born with conditions that cause dysarthria, while others acquire dysarthria from brain injury.
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of dysarthria vary, depending on which area of the nervous system has been affected. Individuals with dysarthria may demonstrate:
- Speech that is difficult to understand, with weak or imprecise articulation.
- Excessively slow or rapid speech.
- Loudness that is reduced, increased or inappropriately variable.
- Limited strength and movement in articulators including the lips, tongue and jaw.
- Difficulty coordinating breathing and speech.
- Abnormal pitch, inflection or rhythm when speaking.
- A very nasal or “stuffy” voice quality.
Diagnosis & Treatment
As dysarthria is caused by damage to the nervous system, it is first recommended that individuals receive neurological evaluation. Treatment teams include neurologists and Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) and may incorporate other specialists including otolaryngologists (ENT specialists) or pulmonologists. SLPs evaluate response to breathing, speech, articulation and voice exercises in multiple contexts, to determine appropriate treatment plans based on dysarthria type and severity.