What is the Difference Between Dysarthria and Apraxia?

What is the Difference Between Dysarthria and Apraxia?

There are two primary categories of motor speech disorders, dysarthria, and apraxia. The production of speech requires the coordination of several muscles and groups of muscles, particularly of those responsible for controlling the respiratory system as well as the larynx, vocal cords, lips, tongue, and jaw.

The brain must plan and organize these movements into the correct sequence, and then execute these plans with precise timing and appropriate force in order to create fluent and proper speech. 

Someone who has difficulties with this process may be affected by apraxia or dysarthria. These motor speech disorders can occur in children as a part of a developmental or physiological difference, or as a result of an injury, neurological change, or illness. Whatever the cause of a motor speech disorder may be, an experienced speech and language pathologist can be an invaluable resource. You can learn more about how speech therapy can help improve speech processes and communication skills by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

What is Dysarthria?

Dysarthria is the result of weakness or lack of control in the muscles that are required to produce speech. Dysarthria typically causes speech to become slow or slurred and is often difficult to understand. Some of the most common causes of dysarthria are disorders of the nervous system or conditions that lead to paralysis of the face, or weakness of the tongue and throat muscles. In some cases, dysarthria can be caused by certain medications. 

When trying to improve speech affected by dysarthria, it is always important to address the underlying cause of the motor speech disorder. Speech therapy can also play an important role in improving communication skills and strengthening the muscles that are required for the production of speech. 

Is Dysarthria a Type of Aphasia?

While both aphasia and dysarthria can be the result of brain trauma such as a stroke, tumor, or traumatic brain injury, they are two different disorders related to speech. Aphasia is the difficulty comprehending speech, whereas dysarthria refers to difficulty with the production and control of the muscles required for speech. 

What is Apraxia?

When we speak, messages must be sent from the brain to the mouth. This communication informs the muscles required for speech when and how they should move in order to create certain sounds. When these messages do not get through properly, this is known as apraxia of speech. Someone with apraxia of speech may have difficulty moving their tongue or lips correctly, despite not having weakness in those muscles. In some cases, they may not be able to speak at all. Someone with apraxia of speech knows what they want to say but their brain has difficulty communicating the correct movement and placement of the tongue, lips, and jaw. 

Sometimes apraxia of speech is referred to as developmental or verbal apraxia. While the word ‘developmental’ can be used, apraxia of speech is not something that is typically outgrown. Most children with apraxia of speech aren’t able to learn speech sound production in the proper order and struggle to make progress without the appropriate support and treatment. While it can take a lot of work and dedication, through time with a specialized speech therapist, speech abilities can improve. You can learn more about how speech therapy can help a child with apraxia of speech by scheduling your free introductory call today!

Can Dysarthria be Cured? 

The outlook and prognosis of dysarthria depend on the specific diagnosis and underlying cause of the slurred speech. Healthcare providers can usually provide further information about the cause, treatment options, and long-term prognosis depending on each specific case. 

For many people who are affected by dysarthria, regular appointments with an experienced speech and language pathologist go a long way toward improving speech and communication skills. Studies have shown that more than ⅔ of adults with diseases of the central nervous system have reported drastically improved speech skills through the help of a speech-language pathologist. 

How Can Speech Therapy Help with Dysarthria and Apraxia?

First, your healthcare provider will create a plan to treat the underlying cause of the motor speech disorder based on the combination and severity of symptoms. Those whose speech is affected by dysarthria benefit tremendously from speech therapy. Speech-language pathologists are experts when it comes to helping people improve their communication skills and will work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals as well as caregivers, teachers, and family members. 

Speech therapy sessions treating dysarthria may include such things as:

  • Exercises that will help strengthen mouth muscles.
  • Strategies to slow down and improve the pacing of speech.
  • Exercises to help control vocal volume, such as breathing deeply before speaking.
  • Ways to practice saying sounds clearly.
  • Identifying the safe movements for chewing and swallowing.
  • A variety of communication techniques, such as facial expressions, gestures, or writing.
  • In some cases when the condition is particularly severe, they may require a device to communicate with others. These devices typically include a letter or picture board or a special computer with a message display and keyboard.

What is the Best Way to Speak with Dysarthria? 

If you struggle with being understood due to dysarthria, try these tips that might help you communicate better:

  • Always Speak Slowly and Loudly.
  • Begin with a topic word, so your audience will know what you are going to talk about.
  • Try to Avoid Speaking when you are feeling tired.
  • Use frequent pauses
  • Try speaking in shorter sentences.
  • Check to make sure your listeners have understood you before you continue on.

It is important to remember that if you are struggling to speak clearly due to dysarthria, help is nearby. Great Speech offers speech therapy online, which means getting help and improving your communication skills is easier than ever. Don’t delay, get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!