Dysarthria is a speech disorder caused by problems controlling the muscles used in speaking. This results in slurred speech that others find difficult to understand. Unlike many other speech disorders, which are often inherent childhood issues, dysarthria is frequently caused by other medical conditions. This means it usually develops in adults, sometimes quite abruptly. It can be frightening and frustrating, however there are ways to handle and manage dysarthria.
There are many possible causes for dysarthria. It can be caused by either difficulty controlling your speech muscles, or those muscles being too weak to complete their functions. This means that it can be caused by sudden brain injury or trauma, as in the case of a head injury, stroke, or brain tumor that presses on the wrong area. It can also be caused by many conditions that affect control over the muscles, such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. It can even be triggered by certain medications, in some cases.
Generally, the treatment for dysarthria will be closely tied with overall treatment. If doctors can treat the underlying cause of the dysarthria, such as removing a brain tumor or treating a head injury, that will usually clear up the dysarthria. This also applies to changing medications that might cause the condition.
However, if the dysarthria is caused by a chronic condition or by something like a stroke, speech therapy may be necessary. This can be extremely frustrating at first. As an adult, it can be very difficult to have people suddenly not be able to understand what you are saying, especially if you are a big talker. This can lead to social withdrawal and even depression. However, with proper speech therapy and some simple communication strategies, you should be able to make yourself clear to others again.
If your doctor has determined that they have done all they can do for the root cause of your dysarthria, your next step is probably to go to a speech-language pathologist. These specialists should be able to help you by targeting what you need to work on in order to communicate clearly again. This could mean focusing on strengthening the muscles that control your speech or just learning to speak more slowly and with more pronounced articulation. They should also be able to suggest alternate methods of communication if you cannot regain speech to your satisfaction.
Proper Support and Strategies
While you are learning to cope with your dysarthria, there are several strategies you can use to decrease your frustration. Some of these are things that you can do, and some are things that you can ask your friends and family to help with.
Despite your potential frustration, one of the most effective strategies is simply to be patient. Keep your sentences short and go slowly. If you have not lost other language or motor skills, keep a pen and paper around, so if you really can’t get your message across in speech, you can at least do it that way. A diagram can also be your friend.
Make sure that people you have to communicate with on a regular basis understand how they can help you. People may automatically try to talk differently to you when you talk differently to them, but don’t let them get away with it. If you are treated normally, you will feel better. Tell them they also need to be patient, and ask for help supplying pens and paper if necessary.
If you have questions about speech language therapy contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist. We see adults and children for speech and language therapy. Contact us today!