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Childhood Dysarthria: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Did You Know? Dysarthria in children with cerebral palsy ranges from 25-75%, as the reports suggested in the Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology journal.

Now, that’s a huge number, and the problem needs to be addressed.

What is Childhood Dysarthria?

Childhood dysarthria is a motor speech condition that affects the diaphragm, lips, tongue, and other speech-producing muscles. It is a disorder that starts affecting kids at birth and can have a big influence on how well they can communicate.

The condition is more common in boys. In fact, according to research published in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing, speech therapy is referred to boys 1.5 times more likely than it’s referred to girls.

The same research also found that the onset of the problem is as early as the age of 2.8 years.

A child finding it difficult to communicate at that tender age can also develop psychological conditions, leading to social isolation, academic difficulties, and other emotional problems.

So, it’s not to be ignored, and it must be diagnosed early on so that proper treatment can be administered to give the child an improved quality of life.

But how would you know that your child might be suffering from Childhood Dysarthria?

Symptoms of Childhood Dysarthria

The problem can be diagnosed by looking at the children’s speaking and communication as well as behaviour.

Here are some of the most common symptoms seen in children having Childhood Dysarthria:

Articulation Difficulties

The child may have difficulty producing speech sounds correctly, making their speech difficult to understand.

Slurred Speech

The child's speech may sound slurred or mumbled.

Weak or Breathless Voice

The child may have a weak or breathless voice that makes it difficult to hear what they are saying.

Slow or Rapid Rate of Speech

The child may speak very slowly or very quickly, making it difficult to understand what they are saying.

Monotone Voice

The child may speak in a monotone voice with no inflection or expression.

Inconsistent Speech Sound Production

The child may produce speech sounds inconsistently, making it difficult to understand what they are saying.

Difficulty with Resonance

The child may have difficulty with the resonance of their voice, making it sound nasal or harsh.

Drooling or Swallowing Difficulties

The child may have difficulty with drooling or swallowing due to weakness in the muscles used for these functions.

Fatigue while Speaking

The child may become fatigued while speaking and have difficulty speaking for extended periods.

If you see any such symptoms in your child, you must immediately take the child in for a diagnosis.

What Happens During the Diagnosis?

The diagnosis generally involves a speech and language assessment and a medical evaluation.

The speech and language assessment will evaluate the child's speech production, language skills, and communication abilities.

The medical evaluation may include neurological testing, imaging studies, and other tests to identify the underlying cause of the dysarthria.

Causes of Childhood Dysarthria

Research suggests cerebral palsy and down syndrome are the primary cause of childhood dysarthria.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, cerebral palsy, a prevalent cause of childhood dysarthria, affects two to three children out of every 1,000 in the United States. Down syndrome, which can also cause dysarthria, affects roughly 1 in every 700 newborns born in the United States, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Besides this, the other common causes of Childhood Dysarthria include:

  1. Brain or nervous system infections

  2. Exposure to toxins or drugs in the uterus or at the infant stages

  3. Premature birth

  4. Low birth weight

  5. Stroke and tumours

Treatment of Childhood Dysarthria

Although there is no known cure for childhood dysarthria, some treatments can help with speech and communication. Options for treatment include:

Speech therapy: Using exercises, drills, and other methods, a speech-language pathologist can help the kid develop their speech and language abilities.

Assistive technology: A variety of tools, including communication boards, speech-generating devices, and computer-based communication systems, are available to help children with dysarthria communicate more effectively.

Medication: In some circumstances, a doctor may recommend medication to assist moderate symptoms like excessive drooling or muscle tension.

Surgery: In a few rare instances, surgery may be suggested to treat structural issues that are impairing speech production.

A study that appeared in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research found that speech therapy is the most popular kind of care for kids with dysarthria, with 90% of kids receiving it. Approximately 20% of children use some kind of assistive technology to help with communication, according to the study, which also revealed that this treatment option is growing in popularity.

Childhood Dysarthria is a problem that affects many children and all they seek is help. So, help them overcome their problem so that they can communicate better and have a life quality that’s quite normal and fulfilling for them!


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