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Motor Speech Disorders

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Motor speech disorders include two primary conditions: dysarthria and apraxia of speech. In these conditions, the connection between the brain and the speech mechanism is damaged or interrupted. This makes it difficult to control and/or coordinate the muscles of the face, tongue, or larynx for the purposes of speaking. Dysarthria and/or apraxia of speech occur in children and adults. They are associated with conditions such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, myasthenia gravis, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, stroke, or traumatic brain injury.

Symptoms of dysarthria vary based upon the type of dysarthria presented, or the location of the brain lesion. Symptoms may include slurred speech, varied rate of speech (too fast or too slow), soft or whispered speech, altered speech quality (nasal, strained, or gravelly voice), or difficulty moving the tongue and facial muscles. Symptoms of apraxia are more uniform from person to person. They include inconsistent speech sound errors, difficulty producing multisyllabic words, difficulty repeating words accurately, groping or struggling to produce a sound, and problems coordinating muscles of the face, tongue, and larynx.

A number of treatment options are available to treat motor speech disorders. Treatments for dysarthria involve strengthening the muscles involved in speech production, changing the rate of speech, increasing the respiratory and vocal support of speech, and increasing the precision of speech production. Treatments for apraxia include techniques to improve coordination and sound sequencing. Sensory treatments that improve an individual’s awareness of how it “feels” and “looks” to produce sounds may also be incorporated.

The Speech-Language Institute at Midwestern University offers assessment and treatment of motor speech disorders in children, adolescents, and adults. Professors with expertise in motor speech impairments work with graduate student clinicians to assess and remediate communication disorders associated with dysarthria and apraxia.

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