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Treating Dysarthria

Dysarthria occurs when the part of the brain that controls speech production is damaged. When this happens, the muscles needed to make certain sounds can’t be used fully. A speech therapist (an expert trained in speech rehabilitation) will find out how dysarthria is affecting the patient’s speech. Then rehabilitation (rehab) can focus on improving those speech problems.

Helping Your Loved One

Speech, like any skill, gets better with practice. Try these tips:

  • Practice saying sounds and words with your loved one.

  • Remind the person to speak slowly. 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 unless it is necessary.

  • Praise any effort at speech that the person makes.

Therapists Watch...

Before rehab starts, the therapist asks the patient to try a few simple tests. A patient may be asked to blow at a tissue or a candle flame. A patient may also be told to bite the lower lip and stick out the tongue. During these tests, the therapist watches the patient’s mouth and face. The therapist is looking for muscle strength, accuracy, and motion on both sides of the face.

...and Listen

The patient may be asked to repeat words and sentences, to sing, or to count. As the patient speaks, 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 the patient regain vocal control. Patients may be taught to control and strengthen muscles in the face and mouth. Such exercises are often done in front of a mirror. Patients may also be taught new ways of breaking up words or making sounds. For instance, your loved one may be told to:

  • Pronounce each sound in each word.

  • Focus on saying single words correctly, rather than trying to speak an entire sentence all at once.

  • Tap a finger with each syllable.

  • Control breathing during speech.


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