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HealthInfo Canterbury


Woman moves closer to speak face-to-faceDysarthria is a motor speech disorder. When you have dysarthria, you know what you want to say, but the muscles you use to speak are weak, and may be uncoordinated.

Causes of dysarthria

Dysarthria is caused by a brain event or condition, such as a stroke or a progressive neurological condition like Parkinson disease, that leads to:

Whether or not dysarthria is permanent depends on what causes it. A lot can change over the first few days, weeks, and months.

Dysarthria often improves as time passes. Some people recover very quickly, but for others it may take longer. Many people get used to it and see signs of progress even years later.

For other people it's likely to get worse over time, especially if the dysarthria is caused by a progressive neurological condition. It's important to get support early so you can keep communicating effectively.

If you have dysarthria your speech may sound:

Your voice may sound:

Communicating when you have dysarthria

Some of the following strategies may be useful. Ask your speech language therapist which ones will help you.

Make sure you get the listener's attention. Speak face to face. Try saying their name.

Concentrate on saying one word at a time.

Speak slowly.

Speak loudly ("think loud").

Exaggerate the sounds in each word.

Use gesture, pointing, or writing.

Use your communication chart or device.

If you haven't been understood, repeat the word or phrase, rephrase what you are trying to say using key words, or write the word or phrase.

Getting help with dysarthria

A speech language therapist will work with you and your whānau or family to help improve your speech and, if necessary, develop new ways to communicate effectively.

You may also be interested in our page about Apraxia of speech.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Helping someone with dysarthria communicate

Written by speech-language therapists, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2020.


Page reference: 78045

Review key: HISCD-79694