Treating Dysarthria

Dysarthria is a type of speech problem. It happens when the part of the brain that controls speech production is damaged. The muscles needed to make certain sounds can’t be used fully. There may be problems with the speech and tone. This is due to changes in the accuracy of muscle movements that affect speech. A speech therapist (an expert trained in speech rehabilitation) will find out how dysarthria is affecting your speech. Then rehabilitation (rehab) can focus on improving those speech problems.

Assessing your speech function

Before rehab starts, the therapist will ask you to try a few simple tests. These are to assess your speech problems and plan treatment. During these tests, the therapist watches your mouth and face. The therapist is looking for muscle strength, accuracy, and motion on both sides of the face.

You may be asked to repeat words and syllables quickly in a pattern, prolong vowels such as "ah" for a length of time, and read some text. As you speak, the therapist listens for lost vowel sounds, breathiness, and slowed or slurred speech.

Regaining voice control

Clearer, smoother speech is one common rehab goal. Speech therapists work to help you regain speech that is more clear and easy for others to understand. You may be taught to control and strengthen muscles in your face and mouth. You may be told to:

  • Pronounce sounds in words more clearly and smoothly.

  • Improve your enunciation by focusing on saying single words correctly. This instead of trying to speak a whole sentence at once.

  • Use strategies to slow down your rate of speech. 

  • Control your breathing during speech.

  • Strengthen and improve your range of movement with the muscles of your face, mouth, and respiratory system.

Helping your loved one

Like any skill, speech gets better with practice. Try these tips:

  • Help him or her practice strategies or activities provided by the speech therapist.

  • Remind the person to speak slowly and pause often. This gives him or her time to make all the sounds that form each word.

  • Ask the person to repeat words you cannot understand.

  • Try not to speak for the person. Have alternative means available such as pen and paper.

  • Reduce background noise.