Motor Speech Disorders

Speech motor planning is the ability to come up with an idea, plan how to say or express that idea and then finally say it. Muscle tone refers to the muscles and strength needed to move the jaw, tongue and other muscles needed to speak.

What are motor speech disorders?

A motor speech disorder is present when a child struggles to produce speech because of problems with motor planning or muscle tone needed to speak. There are two major types of motor speech disorders: dysarthria and apraxia.

What is dysarthria?

Dysarthria, often called slurred speech, is defined as slow, imprecise, and distorted speech that is the result of weakness, paralysis, spasticity, or the inability to control or coordinate the muscle used during speech. Common causes of dysarthria in children include traumatic brain injuries, stroke, brain tumor, and degenerative brain disorders.

What is apraxia?

Apraxia of speech is the inability to make a voluntary movement, like speaking, in spite of being able to demonstrate normal muscle function.

What are the symptoms of a motor speech disorder?

A child with a motor speech disorder may appear to want to form words but is unable to do so. They may demonstrate speech that is slurred or difficult to understand. A child with a motor speech disorder may be able to form one word clearly, but speech will become difficult to understand as statements get longer.

How are motor speech disorders diagnosed?

A comprehensive speech and language evaluation is necessary to diagnose if a motor speech disorder is contributing to a child’s communication impairment. Children with complex neurological conditions may have a motor speech disorder with other communication impairments.

How are motor speech disorders treated?

Specific treatment for motor speech disorders will be determined by the child’s speech and language therapist and other members of the child’s medical team based on:

  • The child’s age, overall health and medical history.
  • Extent of the disorder.
  • Type of disorder.
  • Expectations for the course of the disorder.
  • The family’s opinion or preference.

Specific motor speech therapy techniques may include exercises to improve a child’s breath support for speech, oral motor exercises and repetition of sounds and syllables with increasing levels of difficulty. Play-based therapy techniques and reinforcement are used to make therapy fun and motivating for children.