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What is dysarthria?

If your child has dysarthria, their brain cannot properly control the muscles of their mouth, tongue, vocal cords, and palate (roof of the mouth). This loss of muscle control makes it hard for them to speak.

Dysarthria can be caused by:

  • Brain tumor
  • Stroke
  • Brain injury
  • Some medications
  • Some infections

Dysarthria Definition

Dysarthria: A group of speech disorders caused by disturbances in the strength or coordination of the muscles of the speech mechanism as a result of damage to the brain or nerves.

Source: NIH

Symptoms of dysarthria

Your child’s symptoms will depend on the cause. They may have problems such as:

  • Slurred speech, not speaking clearly
  • Slow speech
  • Fast speech that sounds like mumbling

You may notice these problems with their voice:

  • The pitch may sound too high, too low, or monotone (voice pitch sounds the same, does not change)
  • They go from high to low when speaking (pitch breaks)
  • They talk too softly or too loudly
  • They sound hoarse, breathy, or strained
  • Their voice tires easily or have tremors (quivers)
  • They sound nasal (whiney) or congested like they have a stuffy nose (de-nasal).

Dysarthria can also affect the muscles used for talking, breathing, and eating. The muscles may be weaker, moving slower, or perhaps not move at all.

Dysarthria diagnosis

Your child might see a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or a neurologist (a doctor who studies the brain). The doctor will order the tests and do evaluations to diagnose dysarthria.

A speech-language pathologist speaking to a child

A speech-language pathologist can sometimes improve speech by teaching the child how to strengthen speech muscles.

Dysarthria treatment

Your child’s treatment will depend on their symptoms and problems. The goal of working with an SLP is to attempt to improve their speech.

Treatment may include:

  • Changing how fast or slow your child talks
  • Improving their breathing so they can talk louder
  • Exercises to strengthen their lips, jaw, and tongue
  • Improving speech sounds so they are clearer
  • Teaching family members how to speak better with your child

If your child has severe dysarthria, they may be hard to understand. They may learn to communicate in other ways, such as:

  • Simple gestures
  • Picture boards
  • Alphabet boards

Key Points

  • Dysarthria is a problem with the muscles used for speaking
  • Symptoms include slurred speech, problems with how their voice sounds, or the rate at which they speak.
  • Your child’s treatment for dysarthria will depend on the cause and their symptoms.

For more information

To learn more on dysarthria from tumor removal, see Posterior Fossa Syndrome on


To learn more about dysarthria, speak with your doctor or a Rehabilitation Services provider.

Reviewed: August 2022