Childhood Dysarthria

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What to expect

Childhood Dysarthria

Childhood dysarthria is a neurological speech disorder following neurological injury to the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and the nerves). It has many different causes and characteristics and affects the muscles of speech. Speech and language therapy can help a child with dysarthria to communicate more effectively.

What is childhood dysarthria?

Childhood dysarthria is a neurological speech disorder. It occurs as a result of neurological injury and will cause impairment to the speech mechanism. This impairment will cause the muscles of speech (larynx, tongue, lips, jaw and palate) to become paralysed, poorly coordinated or weak.

A child with dysarthria may present with several different symptoms which will depend on the type and severity of the dysarthria. All areas of speech can be affected including, voice, pitch, breath control, speech, and range, strength and speed of movement.

A child with dysarthria may have mild to severe speech problems. In more severe cases a child may be completely unintelligible as a result of their dysarthria.

What are the symptoms of childhood dysarthria?

Some common symptoms of childhood dysarthria include:

  • Weakness of voice
  • Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties
  • Lack of control of saliva
  • Rough/hoarse voice
  • Nasal speech
  • Abnormal rhythmical breathing.
  • Limited movement of facial muscles
  • Slow or effortful speech
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty on longer more complex words or sentences.

What causes childhood dysarthria?

Dysarthria is caused by an injury or impairment to the nervous system. It has many different causes which can include:

What problems caused by childhood dysarthria can speech and language therapy help with?

Speech and language therapy can help with many different aspects of speech and language which a child with dysarthria might be having difficulty with. Speech and language therapy can also support a child in any difficulties with eating and drinking. Children with dysarthria will experience difficulties relating to their dysarthria and may also have additional speech and language problems. Areas of speech and language that may be addressed in speech and language therapy are:

How is childhood dysarthria diagnosed?

A team of medical professionals will be able to diagnose the cause of dysarthria. A speech and language therapist will carry out a detailed assessment in order to identify if a child has childhood dysarthria. The speech and language therapist will carry out an initial assessment of the child's speech and language to determine the severity and type of dysarthria. An initial assessment will include:

  • A discussion with you about your child's communication and what your main areas of concern are.
  • A case history of your child's development and medical history.
  • A general observation of your child's speech, language and communication and interaction skills.
  • A detailed speech and language assessment e.g. looking at your child's facial movements, asking your child to repeat sounds or words, asking your child to name pictures of words of increasing length and complexity.

How does speech and language therapy help children with childhood dysarthria?

Childhood dysarthria can respond well to therapy. Speech and language therapy can help with many symptoms of dysarthria. The main aim of speech and language therapy will be to maximize your child's functional communication and to improve their intelligibility (how well they are understood by others).

Specific things speech and language therapy can work on for a child with dysarthria are:

  • Articulation therapy to improve the clarity of speech.
  • Strengthening the muscles of speech.
  • Breathing support exercises for clearer / louder speech.
  • Strategies for you and your family to help your child communicate more effectively.
  • Strategies for your child to help them communicate more effectively.

In more severe cases where a child's speech is completely unintelligible, the speech and language therapist may introduce Alternative and Augmentative Communication e.g. visual aids or sign language.

What would speech and language therapy treatment for childhood dysarthria involve?

An initial assessment carried out by the speech and language therapist will help to determine what the best form of therapy is for your child. After this point speech and language therapy may involve:

How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment?

If you would like to arrange an assessment with one of our speech and language therapists please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 0885 643.

Summary

Childhood dysarthria is a neurological speech disorder which can affect many areas of speech. It can range from mild to severe and responds well to speech and language therapy. A speech and language therapist will use a range of techniques to support and improve your child's communication. If you feel you and your child would benefit from speech and language therapy then please do not hesitate to contact us by emailing office@slt.co.uk or calling 0330 0885 643.


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