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Learning About Dysarthria

What is dysarthria?

When people have dysarthria (say "dis-AR-three-uh"), they cannot speak well. They understand language. They know what they want to say. And they usually don't have trouble reading and writing. But when they talk, their speech is often slurred and hard to understand.

This can be caused by an injury to the brain or a disease of the nervous system. It can affect the nerves that control the lips, jaw, tongue, and soft palate. Some causes include a stroke, Parkinson's disease, myasthenia gravis, or injury to the head.

If you have dysarthria, you and your family may feel frustrated and anxious. But speech therapy can help improve your speech so that others can understand you better.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of dysarthria depend on what caused it. People with dysarthria may:

  • Slur their speech.
  • Have a hard time saying consonants with enough force to be understood.
  • Speak too fast or too slow.
  • Mumble and run their words together.
  • Be able to say only a few words per breath.
  • Speak too softly.
  • Have a hard time sucking, chewing, and swallowing.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history. If it looks like you have a speech problem, the doctor may refer you to a speech-language pathologist (SLP).

Your doctor or SLP may suggest other tests to:

  • Find out if you have had a stroke, an injury to your brain, or a disease of your nervous system.
  • Look for a swallowing problem. Sometimes this is done with a swallowing test that uses X-rays.

The SLP will also listen to you talk. He or she will watch how you say sounds and combinations of sounds. The SLP will also listen to how you pause between phrases, how you put stress on parts of words, and how loudly you speak.

How is it treated?

If a treatable medical condition is causing your speech problem, your doctor will likely start by treating that condition. This may also improve your speech.

If your speech problem can't be solved by treating a medical condition, then there are things your doctor or speech-language pathologist can do to help improve your speech. He or she may give you:

  • Methods to help make your speech sounds clearer.
  • Strategies to help you communicate better.
  • A computer or other device, if needed, to help you communicate.
  • A palatal lift. This is a device that looks like a retainer. It supports the soft palate.

Your health care team will help you decide on the best schedule for treatment.

What are some tips for coping?

Communication problems can be very frustrating. Here are some tips:

For you

  • Try to exaggerate the sounds of each word.
  • Be patient with others. If they have trouble understanding you, try again.
  • Use other methods to help listeners understand you. For example, you can use an alphabet board. Point to the first letter of each word as you say it.

For family and friends

  • Be patient, understanding, and supportive.
  • Speak directly to your loved one. Keep eye contact.
  • Give your loved one enough time to talk.
  • Talk with the person in a quiet place without distractions like radio or TV.
  • Don't correct the person's pronunciation.
  • Ask the person to repeat something if you don't understand.
  • Now and then, repeat back what the person said. This helps confirm that you understand the message.
  • Limit conversations to small groups or one-on-one talks. Large group conversations may be hard for your loved one to follow.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter P901 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Dysarthria".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.