Dysarthria, Ataxia, Dysphasia, Aphasia

A condition which I, in the early days, referred to as dyslexia of the mouth. It used to make my GP laugh but it is completely inaccurate, while I was tripping over my tongue. The correct terminology is dysarthria.

I was of the opinion that the correct name was Ataxia but my GP disagreed. However, researching on the Web would suggest that Speech Ataxia, Dysphasia, Aphasia, and Dysarthria are all speech impairments that can be brought about by Multiple Sclerosis, and they all exhibit traits that are not dissimilar.

I have recently received an email (14 Sep 2008) clarifying what I have stated above. A very helpful lady who is a speech-language pathologist from Canada has told me that dysphasia is now an obsolete term, aphasia is indeed a speech deficit but not associated with MS. Dysarthria is the correct term for the condition experienced with multiple sclerosis.

She has suggested the following wording: “researching on the Web would suggest that dysarthria can be brought about by Multiple Sclerosis and affects speech production. One type of dysarthria that is common in MS is speech ataxia. You might read about aphasia, but this is not the same as dysarthria at all. Rather, this affects language and the way words and sentences are put together and understood. People with aphasia and MS can both have aphasia but aphasia cannot be caused by MS”.

There are four main types of dysarthria:

  • Dyskinetic dysarthria poor articulation or slurred speech.
  • Spastic Dysarthria weakness of the muscles invlolved with speech.
  • Peripheral Dysarthria caused by poor airflow in the throat and through the larynx.
  • Mixed Dysarthria see above.

A person with dysarthria may experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Slurred Speech
  • Speaking softly, barely audible
  • slow rate of speech
  • rapid rate of mumbling speech
  • limited tongue, lip, and jaw movement
  • abnormal intonation
  • hoarseness
  • breathiness
  • drooling or poor control of saliva
  • chewing or swallowing difficulty

There are number of neurological conditions that could result in the onset of speech problems such as dysarthria:

  • Stroke
  • Brain Injury
  • Tumours
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • ALS
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Treatments

The main course of treatment is likely to be therapy to try and improve the speech quality. Possibly involving a speech-language pathologist. The most immediate action you can take for yourself, is to practice slowing your speech. This serves two purposes:

  1. Allows careful articulation of each word.
  2. The MS brain may be reluctant to recall words so you need time to formulate the sentence.

References:

Multiple Sclerosis Encyclopaedia
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Dysarthria a stumbling speech impediment
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