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What Is Spastic Dysarthria?

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  • Written By: Steven Symes
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 30 June 2014
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Spastic dysarthria is a medical condition that negatively affects a person’s ability to speak. Those with this condition have difficulty properly controlling one or more muscles used while speaking. They may have trouble properly pronouncing consonants, have irregular pauses when speaking, speak in a monotone or breathe heavily out of their nose while speaking. In more severe cases, a person might have trouble pronouncing the vowels in words as well.

People with spastic dysarthria experience one or more of several common speech symptoms of the disorder. Exactly how a person’s speech is affected by spastic dysarthria depends entirely on the source of the condition, and how severe the originating health problems are. Most patients suffer from more than one speech difficulty, which can include problems with voice volume, pitch, tone and overall vocal quality.

The disorder can be caused by one of several other medical problems. Those who have cerebral palsy might also have spastic dysarthria, due to the neurological problems caused by cerebral palsy. Other neurological problems might be the source of the condition, such as a brain tumor or severe head injury. In addition, other conditions that can lead to the disorder include Tay-Sachs disease, damage from hypothermia and Lyme disease.

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Speech abilities are not the only bodily function that might be affected by spastic dysarthria. Several muscle groups are affected by the condition, including muscles in the tongue, lips, jaw and soft palate. The condition might affect the person’s ability to breathe correctly and to swallow, affecting how the person eats and drinks.

Treatment of spastic dysarthria usually is handled by a speech language pathologist. The speech language pathologist must first determine what effects the condition has on a person’s muscle groups. Certain exercises might be conducted by the patient, under the direction of the speech language pathologist, to help the patient strengthen affected muscle groups and gain greater control of his speech. Changing how a person uses muscles to speak is another technique used by speech language pathologists to help a patient gain greater vocal control.

Some patients, even with speech therapy, cannot improve their vocal abilities. Patients who cannot overcome spastic dysarthria enough to be intelligible require the assistance of other devices so they can effectively communicate with others. These devices might include text-based telephones or a speech synthesizer like the one that is used by the famous scientist Stephen Hawking.

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