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This is a motor speech disorder that is caused by damage to the nervous system (i.e., nerves or the brain).  Dysarthria can be congenital or acquired.  It is usually accompanied by a neurological diagnosis.  Dysarthric speech may be too slow or too fast.  It may sound “slurred” or choppy or be difficult to understand. In dysarthria, damage to motor speech neurons or the brain may result in low tone (also called “hypotonia” ). This mean that the muscles are too stretchy or floppy.  Speech will sound too slow, slurred or have unusual stress patterns or sound hypernasal.



·   The speech of Walt Junior in the television series Breaking Bad is an example of low tone dysarthric speech. That young man’s speech is easily understandable.  I would not consider him a candidate for speech therapy.


Conversely, nerve or brain damage can result in high tone.  In high tone (also called “hypertonia”), the muscles are too tight.  The articulators can get “locked” so that it is difficult to move them smoothly. Speech therapy for dysarthria includes teaching compensatory strategies (e.g., such as slowing speech rate, increasing respiratory support or increasing loudness).   Dysarthria cannot be “cured” because it is the result of a neurological condition.  However, it is often possible improve speech intelligibility.


There are many different types of dysarthria.  Please refer to my article about Parkinson’s Disease in the LSVT section of this website for more information.


Here's a low tech trick for individuals who

have dysarthria:

Carry a small card with the alphabet and the

digits 0 through 9 printed on it.  Lay it out with

the vowels on the left.  Leave enough space so that you can touch each letter and number clearly, without overlapping.

  •  A  B  C  D

  • E  F  G  H

  • I  J  K  L  M  N

  • O  P  Q  R  S  T

  • U  V  W  X

  • Y Z

  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9

As you speak, point to the first letter of each word you say.  This will slowdown your speech rate and provide additional information for othere who may have difficulty understanding your speech.  You can also spell each word out.


Use head nods/shakes, thumbs up/down etc. to let the listener know that he understood you.

Some other helpful phrases that might be on your card:

  • Please be patient.  I am not drunk or on drugs.  I have dysarthria, a motor speech impairment.

  • Shouting does not help.

  • My hearing is fine.

  • Please be patient while I spell this important word for you.

  • Please watch as I point to the first sound of each

  • word I say.

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