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. There may be abnormalities with the speech, tone, and accuracy of muscle movements which impact 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.
Before rehab starts, the therapist asks you to try a few simple tests to assess your speech deficits 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 a passage. 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 intelligible speech production for conversation. You may be taught to control and strengthen muscles in the face and mouth. You may be told to:
Pronounce sounds in words more clearly and smoothly.
Improve articulation by focusing on saying single words correctly, rather than trying to speak an entire sentence all at once.
Use strategies to slow down his or her rate of speech.
Control breathing during speech.
Strengthen and improve range of movement with the muscles of the face, mouth, and respiratory system.
Helping your loved one
Speech, like any skill, gets better with practice. Try these tips:
Practice any strategies or activities provided by the speech therapist.
Remind the person to speak slowly and pause frequently. 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.