Why is my child’s speech slurred?

There are so many aspects of speech intelligibility. Some children are difficult to understand because they have one or more articulation errors. These errors are likely not going to make his speech unintelligible. However, some children have lots of errors. This is usually the result of incorrect placement patterns the tongue is making for several sounds. This is known as a phonological processing error. Some common ones include gliding, when the child produces /w/ for the /r/. “Wudolf the Wed-nosed Weigndeer”.

If you notice that ALL sounds seemed to be slightly slurred, this may be Dysarthria. Dysarthria is caused other conditions, such as Cerebral Palsy. Symptoms often include: difficulty swallowing, chewing, drooling, difficulty with speech and low facial tone.

How is dysarthria diagnosed?

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can evaluate a person with speech difficulties and determine the nature and severity of the problem. The SLP will look at movement of the lips, tongue, and face, as well as breath support for speech and voice quality. The assessment will also include an examination of speech production in a variety of contexts.

What treatment is available for people with dysarthria?

Treatment depends on the cause, type, and severity of the symptoms. An SLP works with the individual to improve communication abilities. Some possible goals of treatment include:

  • Slowing the rate of speech
  • Improving the breath support so the person can speak more loudly
  • Strengthening muscles
  • Increasing tongue and lip movement
  • Improving speech sound production so that speech is more clear
  • Teaching caregivers, family members, and teachers strategies to better communicate with the person with dysarthria
  • In severe cases, learning to use alternative means of communication (e.g., simple gestures, alphabet boards, or electronic or computer-based equipment)

Tips for the Person With Dysarthria

  • Introduce your topic with a single word or short phrase before beginning to speak in more complete sentences.
  • Check with the listeners to make sure that they understand you.
  • Speak slowly and loudly and pause frequently.
  • Try to limit conversations when you feel tired—when your speech will be harder to understand.
  • If you become frustrated, try to use other methods, such as pointing or gesturing, to get your message across or take a rest and try again later.


Auditory Processing Disorder

Little boy in headphones


Does this sound like you – have you been frustrated by trying to find the cause of your child’s learning struggles? Do you suspect that it could be auditory processing disorder (APD)? I frequently hear from parents how difficult it is to get the right diagnosis and treatment for their child, especially when many learning or attention issues can look very similar.

What I’ve found is that many auditory processing disorders (APD) exhibit symptoms similar to those of attention deficit disorders, such as:

Being easily distracted
Not engaging in class
Not following directions
Teachers and parents may feel like children with APD are not trying, not paying attention, or being disruptive when in fact what’s happening is that they try to pay attention but can’t follow what’s being said and eventually give up. These children may also receive a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD with treatments that fail to address the underlying issues.

If you suspect that your child may have APD, I can help you determine next steps in getting a diagnosis and interventions that can help improve processing speed.

Simply reply with any questions you may have, or feel free to give me a call.


Christine Wilson