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Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder. It results in difficulty speaking, slurring and sometimes quiet speech, making the sufferer difficult to understand by others. Dysarthria treatment depends on the cause of the dysarthria. It normally incorporates speech therapy and the removal of any underlying cause, where possible.
Often confused with dysphasia, which is an inability to connect thought and speech, dysarthria refers to an inability to form words. The symptoms of dysarthria differ according to the underlying cause and may include monotonic or slow speech and drooling. Dysarthria treatment is therefore aimed at improving pronunciation and articulation of speech. Speech therapists are the main player in the process, which, depending on the severity of the dysarthria, may take an extended period of time.
There are a number of causes of dysarthria. Degenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and multiple sclerosis may cause worsening dysarthria as the disease progresses. Stroke, brain injury or head trauma may also cause it.
Reversible dysarthria may be a side effect of medications, such as some sedative drugs. In this case dysarthria treatment will involve a clinical decision by the prescribing doctor. The dose of the drug may be reduced, or the drug may be stopped entirely or changed to something else.
In the case of progressive degenerative disorders, dysarthria treatment may be ongoing and involve speech therapy. If speech becomes too difficult, other communication methods such as computer or electronic equipment or alphabet boards may be recommended. It is important that the people involved in the lives of dysarthria sufferers are also educated on how to listen effectively and make speech easier for them. This includes removing other noise or distractions and asking yes or no questions. It is important also to realize that because a person has dysarthria doesn't necessarily mean that he is deaf.
In the case of stroke or head injury, dysarthria treatment should form part of a multifactorial rehabilitation program. Speech therapy will play as an important part as physiotherapy and occupational therapy. The aim is to strengthen the tongue, cheek and mouth muscles, allowing for easier speech. The process may be long and frustrating, but the outcome is often positive.
Coping mechanisms for dysarthria sufferers are also important. These include avoiding talking when tired as speech may be especially slurred, checking the understanding of the listener regularly, and using shortcuts such as gesturing. It is often suggested that sufferers carry a notepad and pen to aid communication and minimize frustration.