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Dysarthria in Adults

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) play a central role in the screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of persons with dysarthria. The professional roles and activities in speech-language pathology include clinical services (diagnosis, assessment, planning, and treatment); education, administration, and research; and prevention and advocacy. See ASHA's Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology (ASHA, 2016b).

The following roles are appropriate for SLPs:

  • Screening individuals who present with possible dysarthria and determining the need for further assessment and/or referral for other services
  • Conducting a culturally and linguistically relevant comprehensive assessment of speech, language, and communication in the context of the individual's unique complaints and functional needs
  • Diagnosing the presence of dysarthria, and establishing its severity, characteristics, and functional impact
  • Referring to, and collaborating with, other professionals to determine etiology of dysarthria, if not already known, and to facilitate access to comprehensive services
  • Determining probable prognoses for improvement or progression of the dysarthria
  • Making decisions about the management of dysarthria in collaboration with the patient, family, and interprofessional treatment team. See ASHA's resources on person- and family-centered care and interprofessional education/interprofessional practice (IPE/IPP)
  • Developing culturally and linguistically appropriate treatment plans, providing intervention and support services, documenting progress, and determining appropriate service delivery approaches and dismissal criteria
  • Counseling persons with dysarthria and their families and caregivers regarding communication-related issues and providing education aimed at preventing further complications related to dysarthria
  • Consulting and collaborating with other professionals, families and caregivers, and others to facilitate program development and to provide supervision, evaluation, and/or expert testimony, as appropriate
  • Providing prevention information to individuals and groups known to be at risk for etiologies associated with dysarthria, as well as to individuals working with those at risk
  • Advocating for individuals with dysarthria and their families at the local, state, and national levels
  • Educating other professionals on the needs of persons with dysarthria and the role that SLPs play in meeting those needs
  • Remaining informed of research in the area of dysarthria, helping advance the knowledge base related to the nature and treatment of this disorder, and using evidence-based practice to guide intervention

As stated in the Code of Ethics (ASHA, 2016a), SLPs who serve this population should be specifically educated and appropriately trained to do so. SLPs who diagnose and treat dysarthria must possess skills in the differential diagnosis and management of motor speech disorders. They must have specialized knowledge of

  • neuroanatomy and neural functions related to craniofacial, laryngeal, and respiratory musculature and how they interact during speech production;
  • how each subsystem (articulation, phonation, respiration, resonance, and prosody) can contribute to the perception of normal or abnormal speech;
  • the principles of speech motor control and motor learning; and
  • appropriate evidence-based assessment and intervention techniques.

Content Disclaimer: The Practice Portal, ASHA policy documents, and guidelines contain information for use in all settings; however, members must consider all applicable local, state and federal requirements when applying the information in their specific work setting.