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Dysarthria is difficulty speaking caused by problems with the muscles used in speech.
When it occurs in children it's usually the result of brain changes before or during birth and is known as developmental dysarthria.
A child or adult with dysarthria may be difficult to understand. Their speech may be slurred, imprecise or quiet. In some cases the individual will only be able to produce short phrases, single words or no useful speech at all.
If you or your child have dysarthria, you may find it helpful to see a speech and language therapist. Ask your doctor to refer you. Whether the condition improves or not with speech and language therapy depends on what has caused the dysarthria and the extent of the brain damage or dysfunction.
The causes of dysarthria in adults and in children are different. The symptoms depend on the underlying cause.
Dysarthria that occurs later in life usually results from a condition such as:
Speech can be affected in a number of ways by the above conditions. For example:
Dysarthria can affect the person's ability to engage in everyday activities and work. They may also drool and have swallowing problems.
Developmental dysarthria is most commonly seen in children with cerebral palsy. This results from brain damage that occurred before or during birth.
Children with dysarthria often have shallow, irregular breathing and their voice and speech may be affected in any of the following ways:
These problems can make communication very difficult and may affect the child's social interaction, employment and education.
Speech and language therapists play an important role in identifying and assessing children and adults with dysarthria.
However, there's no guarantee that speech and language therapy can improve the speech of all patients with dysarthria. Treatment success depends on the timing, and the extent and location of the brain damage or brain dysfunction or the stage of the progressive condition that's causing it.
To assess the extent of the speech problem, a speech therapist may ask you or your child to try any of the following tasks:
The speech therapist will also want to examine the movement of the muscles in your mouth and larynx (voice box), and may wish to make a recording.
A speech therapist will try to improve and maximise your ability to talk, help you find different ways of communicating, and help you and your family adapt to the new situation.
They will work as part of a team of health professionals that includes people from the health, social and voluntary sector.
It's difficult to generalise about what will be effective, as successful treatment is determined by the patient's underlying condition and personal circumstances.
The speech therapist may recommend:
Some speech therapists may be able to offer a short loan of a communication aid.
If you live with or care for a person with dysarthria, you may find the following advice helpful:
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.