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Apraxia vs Dysarthria: What’s the Difference?

Apraxia and dysarthria are both speech disorders, but they have distinct characteristics and require different approaches for diagnosis and treatment. Understanding these differences is key to providing effective care and support.

In this article, we’re breaking down the unique aspects of apraxia and dysarthria – their causes, symptoms, and treatment methods. If you have any questions, our Speech-Language Pathologists are always available to assist!

In this article, we will discuss:

Fluency vs Articulation Disorders

How can You Distinguish Apraxia vs Dysarthria?

To differentiate between apraxia and dysarthria, it's important to recognize their specific nature and the areas they impact. Apraxia is a motor speech disorder related to the brain's inability to plan and execute the movements necessary for speech. It's not due to muscle weakness but a disruption in the brain's communication with the muscles.

People with apraxia understand language and know what they want to say, but face difficulties in coordinating the muscle movements required for speech. This can lead to inconsistent speech errors and struggles with the rhythm and flow of speech.

Dysarthria, in contrast, is a motor speech disorder resulting from actual muscle weakness, paralysis, or incoordination. It affects the physical production of speech, leading to challenges like slurred speech, slow or rapid speech, and changes in voice quality. Unlike apraxia, dysarthria may impact all aspects of speech production, including articulation, phonation, resonance, and respiration.

Both conditions benefit from a personalized approach that takes into account the individual's specific challenges and strengths. If you or a loved one is facing these speech difficulties, our Speech-Language Pathologists at Better Speech are ready to help.

Defeat speech barriers: Distinguish Phonological Disorder from Articulation Disorder

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What is Apraxia?

Apraxia of speech is a neurological disorder where the brain struggles to plan and coordinate the complex sequence of movements required for producing speech. It's often the result of brain damage, such as from a stroke or head injury, and can occur in both children and adults.

This condition doesn't involve muscle weakness or paralysis. Instead, the challenge lies in the brain's inability to send the correct signals to move the lips, tongue, and jaw properly for speech. People with apraxia may know exactly what they want to say but find it difficult to articulate words correctly, leading to inconsistent and distorted speech.

Fluency Disorder Therapy

What are the Causes of Apraxia?

The most common cause of apraxia is damage to the parts of the brain involved in speech production, often due to a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Other causes can include degenerative neurological diseases and some forms of dementia.

In children, the cause of developmental apraxia of speech is often unknown, though it's believed to involve complex neurological factors.

What are the Symptoms of Apraxia?

The symptoms of apraxia revolve around difficulty with motor planning and execution of speech. These difficulties present themselves in a number of ways, including:

  • Inconsistent Speech Errors: Difficulty in producing the correct sounds and sequences consistently, leading to variable speech mistakes.

  • Difficulty with Complex Words: More challenges with longer and more complex words.

  • Groping Movements: Visible struggles or attempts to position the mouth correctly to produce sounds.

  • Altered Speech Rhythm and Prosody: Disruption in the natural rhythm and flow of speech, making it sound uneven or unnatural.

What is Dysarthria?

Articulation disorder Therapy

Dysarthria is a condition caused by weakness, paralysis, or incoordination of the muscles used for speech. It can result from various neurological conditions, such as a stroke, brain injury, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).

The key feature of dysarthria is the physical difficulty in articulating words due to impaired muscle control. This leads to symptoms like slurred speech, changes in voice quality, and difficulty with the rhythm and speed of speech. The severity can range from mild speech disturbances to severe impairments that make verbal communication very challenging.

What are the Causes of Dysarthria?

Dysarthria arises from conditions that impair the nervous system's control over the muscles used in speech. It can be triggered by a variety of issues, including cerebrovascular accidents (strokes), degenerative neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease or ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), and traumatic brain injuries.

Infections that affect the brain or nerves controlling speech can also lead to dysarthria. These conditions disrupt the normal muscle control necessary for clear speech, leading to the various speech difficulties associated with dysarthria.

What are the Symptoms of Dysarthria?

Dysarthria manifests through various speech difficulties, primarily related to muscle control issues. The symptoms generally include:

  • Impaired Articulation: Challenges in clearly pronouncing words, leading to slurred or mumbled speech.

  • Altered Speech Tempo: Abnormalities in speech rhythm, with speech being either unusually slow or rapid.

  • Voice Changes: Variations in voice quality, such as hoarseness or breathiness, and issues with volume and pitch control.

  • Rhythm and Prosody Alterations: Disruption in the natural flow and melody of speech, affecting its overall clarity and expressiveness.

How Do You Treat Apraxia vs Dysarthria?

The treatment for apraxia and dysarthria varies based on the specific nature and severity of each condition. It's essential to tailor therapy to the individual's needs to improve their communication skills effectively. 

Apraxia Treatment:

  • Speech Therapy: Focused on improving speech motor planning and coordination.

  • Repetitive Practice: Exercises to help the brain relearn speech movements.

  • Use of Multimodal Communication: Including gestures, writing, or communication devices to supplement speech.

Dysarthria Treatment:

  • Exercises: To strengthen and coordinate speech muscles.

  • Speech Therapy: To improve articulation, pace, and volume of speech.

  • Use of Assistive Devices: In severe cases, to aid in communication.

When Should You Seek Professional Help?

It is important to seek professional help for apraxia and dysarthria when certain signs and difficulties in speech become noticeable. For apraxia, these signs include challenges in coordinating the movements required for speech, inconsistent pronunciation, and difficulty in forming complex words or sounds.

For dysarthria, key indicators are slurred or unclear speech, changes in voice quality, difficulty in controlling the rhythm and speed of speech, and muscle weakness in speech-related movements.

At Better Speech we know you deserve speech therapy that works. Our team specializes in diagnosing and treating a variety of speech and language disorders. Reach out to our skilled Speech-Language Pathologists for guidance on managing and improving communication skills. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to fully recover from apraxia or dysarthria?

Full recovery can depend on the underlying cause, severity, and response to therapy. Some individuals may see a complete resolution, while others might have ongoing challenges.

How effective is speech therapy in treating apraxia and dysarthria?  

Can apraxia and dysarthria occur together?

What should I do if I suspect my child has apraxia or dysarthria?

What types of exercises are involved in speech therapy for apraxia?


About the Author

Aycen Zambuto

Aycen Zambuto

I’m a seasoned educator in speech therapy with over six years of experience helping people navigate challenges in communication. Throughout this time, I’ve found joy in guiding individuals through a variety of therapeutic journeys, from toddlers with apraxia to seniors with dysphonia.

I’m passionate about demystifying this complex world of speech therapy and helping readers around the globe achieve clear and effective communication. When I’m not writing about speech, you’ll often find me reading, traveling or spending time with friends and family.



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