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Motor Speech Disorders (Dysarthria and Apraxia)

When the normal speech pattern is interrupted or verbal communication is adversely affected, this is called a motor speech disorder. Motor speech disorders are either cerebral in nature, meaning the brain or nervous system have been damaged, or neuro-muscular, meaning that the muscles used to produce speech are not cooperating with the brain. Patients who live with a motor speech disorder experience:

  • Stuttering
  • Slurred, choppy, or mumbled speech
  • Slow rate of speech
  • Muteness
  • Changes in voice quality (nasal speech, hoarseness, breathy voice)

Motor speech disorders may occur at birth, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, or they can develop later in life due to a nervous system disorder. Two treatable motor speech disorders are dysarthria and apraxia.

What is the difference between dysarthria and apraxia?

Apraxia is a disorder of the brain and nervous system. Patients with apraxia are unable to perform vocal movements even though they comprehend the task. Apraxia usually follows a brain injury, neurodegenerative disease, brain tumor, stroke, or head trauma. People who live with apraxia have difficulty putting words together in the correct order or ‘reaching’ for the correct word while speaking.

Dysarthria occurs when a patient’s muscles do not coordinate together to produce speech. Weak or inefficient motor movements prevent dysarthria patients from speaking clearly. Like apraxia, dysarthria can be the result of stroke or a degenerative condition, but it is also frequently seen in people with cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis.

Treatment for Dysarthria and Apraxia at Ogden Clinic

Ogden Clinic speech-language pathologists work with each individual to improve communication abilities. Although dysarthria and apraxia have different causes, the approach to treatment has some similarities. The goal of motor speech disorder therapy may include:

  • Improving breath support and sound production
  • Increasing tongue and lip movement
  • Strengthening speech muscles
  • Slowing the rate of speech

In many cases, our experts also teach caregivers and family members different strategies to communicate with patients who have motor-speech conditions. Alternative means of communication such as simple gestures, pictures, and electronic devices are excellent communication aides that help breach the gap of interaction.

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