Speech Disorders in Children: Symptoms, Causes & Diagnosis

Dealing With Dysarthria In Toddlers

Dysarthria is one of many types of speech disorders in toddlers. However, with the help of an SLP, treatment can help a child learn to speak properly. Educate yourself about this disorder and know what symptoms to watch for so you can seek help.

Speech disorders can hamper a child’s development and cause worry to parents. The good news is that with timely diagnosis and treatment, children can learn to speak clearly. Dysarthria is one such speech disorder. Knowing the causes, signs and treatment can equip you with the knowledge needed to help your child speak well.

What Is Dysarthria And What Should You Expect

Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder, resulting from impaired movement of the muscles used for speech production such as the lips, tongue, vocal cords, or the diaphragm. Dysarthria is often characterised by slow or slurred speech that may be difficult to understand.

What Causes Speech Problems in Toddlers?

Speech disorders in children can be caused by many factors. It could be a learning disability due to the brain working differently. Some toddlers who have a hearing disability could develop a speech disability as well. Other reasons include neurological problems like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and traumatic brain injury.

What Causes Childhood Dysarthria?

Several nervous system problems such as brain injury, brain tumours, and other conditions that cause the tongue or throat muscles to weaken can cause dysarthria. It can be caused at birth due to disorders such as cerebral palsy or it can occur later in life owing to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and tumours. Some medications like narcotics and sedatives can also cause dysarthria.

What Are The Characteristics of Dysarthria In Toddlers?

Like many health conditions, the signs and symptoms of speech disorders in toddlers vary depending on the cause. The symptoms of dysarthria, too, vary but can include:

  • Slow and laboured speech
  • Slurred, choppy, or mumbled speech
  • Rapid speech with a mumbling tone
  • Abnormal pitch and volume of speech
  • Limited tongue, lip, and jaw movement
  • Changes in voice quality, such as hoarse or breathy voice, or a nasal tone

Diagnosis And Treatment of Dysarthria in Toddlers

Before treatment, a proper diagnosis is required by a specialist. Dysarthria is diagnosed in toddlers by having a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) evaluate the child. While checking for dysarthria, the SLP will analyse the movement of the lips, tongue, and face, as well as breath support for speech and voice quality.

Dysarthria in a 15-month-old baby may be treated differently than in a 3-year-old toddler, whose understanding of language is greater. The role of the SLP is to work with your child to improve communication abilities, while the aim of the treatment is to improve breath support so your child can speak louder, strengthen his facial muscles, slow his rate of speech, and increase tongue and lip movement.

Children suffering from speech disorders such as dysarthria need a strong support system from parents and families. It’s important for caregivers to work hand-in-hand with the SLP to help with speech therapy activities for toddlers, leading to effective treatment.

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