Communicating with someone with dysarthria
Dysarthria is a condition that occurs when there are problems with the muscles that help you talk. Most times, dysarthria occurs:
- As a result of brain damage after a stroke, head injury, or brain cancer
- When there is damage to the nerves of the muscles that help you talk
- When there is an illness of the nervous system, such as myasthenia gravis
Use the tips below for improving communication with someone who has aphasia.
Speech and language disorder - dysarthria care; Slurred speech - dysarthria; Articulation disorder - dysarthria
What to Expect at Home
In a person with dysarthria, a nerve, brain, or muscle disorder makes it difficult to use or control the muscles of the mouth, tongue, larynx, or vocal cords. The muscles may be weak or completely paralyzed. Or, it may be hard for the muscles to work together.
People with dysarthria have trouble making certain sounds or words. Their speech is poorly pronounced (such as slurring), and the rhythm or speed of their speech changes.
Tips for Communicating Better
Simple changes in the way you talk with a person who has dysarthria can make a difference.
- Turn off the radio or TV.
- Move to a quieter room if needed.
- Make sure lighting in the room is good.
- Sit close enough so that you and the person who has dysarthria can use visual cues.
- Make eye contact with each other.
The person who has dysarthria and their family may need to learn different ways of communicating, such as:
- Using hand gestures.
- Writing by hand what you are saying.
- Using a computer to type out the conversation.
- Using alphabet boards, if muscles used for writing and typing are also affected.
If you do not understand the person, do not just agree with them. Ask them to speak again. Tell them what you think they said and ask them to repeat it. Ask the person to say it in a different way. Ask them to slow down so that you can make out their words.
Listen carefully and allow the person to finish. Be patient. Make eye contact with them before speaking. Give positive feedback for their effort.
Ask questions in a way that they can answer you with yes or no.
If you have dysarthria:
- Try to speak slowly.
- Use short phrases.
- Pause between your sentences to make sure the person listening to you understands.
- Use hand gestures.
- Use pencil and paper or a computer to write out what you are trying to say.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Dysarthria. www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/dysarthria. Accessed May 10, 2018.
Kirshner HS. Dysarthria and apraxia of speech. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 14.
Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.