Adult Speech Disorders
Speech difficulties are one of the most common issues we deal with as a speech and language therapists. Speech difficulties come in many forms including stuttering, dysarthria, voice problems, and articulation difficulties, and there are many things you can do to improve your speech.
Reasons for Difficulties with Speech in Adulthood:
Accident and injury
Many adults damage their brain or speech muscles in an accident. Sometimes these things correct themselves naturally, but often there are long lasting effects. The icommunicate website provides information and strategies about many types speech problem, so keep checking the site as we update it. Have a look around the adult communication section and you will probably find what you are looking for. If not, post an article on our Forum and we will try and offer you some relevant information or strategies.
Disease and illness
Certain disease and illness can cause speech difficulty because of muscle or brain cell degeneration., but often there are many strategies that you can put in place to improve communication. Our section on Acquired Difficulties will focus heavily on communication difficulties caused by disease. Keep checking the site and our Resource Centre for information and resources relating to improving communication following disease or illness.
“I’ve always had a speech problem” – some adults have had speech difficulties since childhood and the speech difficulty only became a problem when they reached adulthood. Some people might describe this as a “speech impediment”, “speech problem”, or a “pronunciation problem”. Sometimes it can be difficult to change some speech difficulties that have been present since childhood because they are so embedded. However, if change is not impossible, and if your speech therapist / pathologist cannot “fix” the speech problem, they may be able to find alternative strategies to help. Look through our site to find strategies to help with articulation problems or to facilitate communication, if you cannot find what you are looking for, post an article on our Forum.
This is a motor speech disorder caused by a neurological injury or disease and it can affect one or more of the speech subsystems – respiration, phonation, resonance, prosody, articulation. Injury or disease to the speech musculature may also cause dysarthric like symptoms. When the part of the brain that controls speech production is damaged, the link from the brain to the muscles of speech is affected. Dysarthria can present in varying degrees of severity depending on localization and severity of brain damage. The production of speech sounds may be very difficult and in some cases speech may not be possible. The lips, tongue, palate, facial muscles, and the vocal folds (chords), may be uncoordinated or immobile. Further difficulties may occur if breathing is also affected as the lungs provide the energy for speech. An individual with dysarthria may have slurred, hoarse, jerky or strained speech and may be difficult to understand or completely unintelligible. Intelligibility may be further hindered by low volume, variable rate and rhythm, and irregular pitch. As well as traumatic brain injury, dysarthria can be caused by brain tumour, stroke, cerebral palsy, long term use of certain medication, and degenerative diseases such as Parkinsons. Other co-occuring problems may include difficulties with swallowing and saliva control. There different types of Dysarthria depending on the area of and type of brain damage. Treatment for dysarthria can be carried out by a speech and language therapist / pathologist and may involve strengthening or relaxing speech muscles, using compensatory techniques, or looking at assistive communication strategies or devices. For a more detailed explanation of Dysarthria and the compensatory strategies see the Speech and Language Folder of our Downloads Section.
Dysfluency (Stammering or Stuttering)
Stammering has a major impact on the lives of adults. icommunicate has a section devoted to adult stammering with information and strategies. See our Stuttering/Stammering section.
Many adults experience voice problems for a range of reasons. icommunicate has a section dedicated to adult voice problems with information, voice care tips and ideas to improve your voice. See our Voice Problems Section.
Assistive Technology (AAC)
There are now many new high and low tech assistive communication devices that can help with a number of different speech and communication difficulties. If you have a speech problem and are finding it hard to make yourself understood, you may find that an assistive device will help. In our Assistive Technology section we touch on the use of assistive technology and lo-tech devices to facilitate communication. With the advent of new technology, this is becoming a major growth area for communication and communication difficulties. The use of assistive communication devices, both hi-tech and lo-tech, are very much part the icommunicate philosophy. This website is all about communication and a total communication environment. This means we focus on every modality that can be used to facilitate communication. At icommunicate we plan to have a heavy focus on assistive communication and technology. Visit our Total Communication Folder in the Downloads Centre for a more detailed description of how assistive devices can facilitate communication.
General tips to Make Speech More Understandable
There are many things you can do in your day to day life that will make you clearer and easier to understand.
- Look at the person you are talking to.
- Avoid communicating in noisy and distracting environments.
- Do not speak to quickly.
- Look forward, not down, when talking.
- Use gesture and facial expression to enhance your message.
- Use your lungs, and breathe from your diaphragm when talking to give your voice more power.
- Follow conversational rules such as turn taking and staying on topic.
- If you are having real problems being understood investigate other forms of communication such as writing your message, signing or using an electronic device to speak for you.
If you have concerns about your speech or voice, visit a qualified speech therapist /pathologist for assessment and speech therapy.