A Guide to Dysarthria in Children

A Guide to Dysarthria in Children



Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that makes it difficult to use or control the muscles of the mouth, tongue, palate and vocal chords for speech. These muscles can become weak, move slowly or not move at all making speech challenging.

Dysarthria is caused by brain or nerve damage to the speech muscles.

How does dysarthria affect children?

The impact of dysarthria can be varying, depending on the area of the nervous system affected. Some children with dysarthria will have trouble speaking and children can also experience difficulty with chewing and swallowing.

What are the symptoms of dysarthria?

As mentioned above, the impact of dysarthria from child to child will be varying. Some of the symptoms of dysarthria are included below and children can experience one or more of these:

  • "Slurred" speech where sounds are not spoken clearly
  • Issues with voice pitch where it may be too high, too low, monotone or have breaks
  • Speaking too loudly or too softly so that speech is hard to hear
  • Slow speech or rapid, very fast speech that can sound like mumbling
  • Speech can sound hoarse, breathy or strained
  • Voice can tire easily and sometimes voice tremors can occur
  • Voice can sound nasal (whiney) and de-nasal (congested)
  • Drooling or poor control of saliva
  • Chewing and swallowing difficulty.

How is dysarthria diagnosed?

Dysarthria should be formally diagnosed by a qualified Speech Pathologist. They will assess your child’s speech and provide appropriate treatment to help. Assessment can involve observing your child eating and drinking, listening to their speech and doing an oral-motor examination where your Speech Pathologist will ask your child to make different movements with their mouth and tongue.

What happens if my child is diagnosed with dysarthria?

If your child is diagnosed with dysarthria, treatment and therapy will be tailored to their needs and will depend on the symptoms that they have. Your child’s Speech Pathologist will work with you to set some goals and treatment may involve special exercises to improve muscle strength and strategies to lessen the impact of dysarthria.

Examples of some of speech therapy goals for children with dysarthria are:

  • Helping your child to be better understood
  • Improving breathing so that your child can speak louder
  • Providing family members, carers and teachers with strategies to improve communication
  • Learning to use alternative methods of communication if appropriate

Examples of strategies to help a child with dysarthria work towards their goals:

  • Taking a breath before speaking
  • Looking at others when speaking
  • Slowing down speech
  • Speaking in shorter sentences

Your child’s Speech Pathologist should work closely with you and others in your child’s support network to help your child to meet their goals.

How can I help my child?

There are some simple steps that you and others can take improve communication with your child, they include:

  • Reduce distractions and background noise
  • Watch your child when they talk
  • Let your child know when you’re having difficulty understanding them
  • Ask yes or no questions if you are having still difficulty understanding what they are trying to say

Where can I get further information on dysarthria?

Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Health Direct

We're here to help

Our team of experienced Speech Pathologists support children and young people throughout Brisbane and the greater Brisbane area with communication and feeding challenges. For further info and to check availabiilty in your area, call us on 1800 XAVIER or use our simple online form and we'll be in touch.