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Multiple Sclerosis and Speech Therapy

  • June 17th, 2016
Person in a wheelchair

Nowadays, multiple sclerosis continues to have no cure but turning to a speech therapist may help on the recovery of communication functions and on the improvement of the patients’ living standards.

Multiple Sclerosis (EM) is a chronical disease which affects the Central Nervous System (SNC), concretely, the brain and spinal medulla. It is he origin of delays and interruptions in nervous communication and, in some occasions, of damages in the nervous fibre. It currently has no cure but it does have a pharmacological treatment supported by an integral treatment which can improve the patients’ living standards.

People affected by Multiple Sclerosis may present difficulties to make themselves clear or to articulate words as a consequence of the disease, fact which affects their lives both at a personal and at a social level. Many are not conscious about suffering a speech impediment; however, such difficulties can be overcome by turning to a professional. In this sense, the speech therapist’s role is fundamental in order to improve the patients’ communication abilities because of the following reasons:

  • They inform, assess and train the people who take care of the patients.
  • They diagnose the problem early.
  • They examine and value the deficits.
  • They establish a treatment plan and restrain the appearance of new disorders. The main areas to be treated are: anatomy and functionality of orofacial organs, phonation and respiration, articulation, deglutition and language.
  • They propose and Alternative System or an Augmentative Communication Devices (SAAC).  That is, ways of expression different to that of spoken language which may increase or compensate difficulties in communication.

Many people affected by this are not conscious about suffering a speech impediment

Communication Disorders

The most common Communication Disorders present in people affected by Multiple Sclerosis are the following:

  • Respiratory Disorders:  decrease of the breathing capacity, speaking fatigue, the need to make pauses and not following a proper breathing patron.
  • Sensory abnormalities: swollen mouth, burning in the face and a tingling sensation.
  • Writing abnormalities: patients often show difficulties writing at a normal speed, due to the slowness with which motor information is processed. Gradually, the affected realize that their writing has changed and that they write slower and slower.
  • Cognition: abnormalities in the working of memory and spatial-temporal disorientation.
  • Dysarthria and dysprosody: speech distortion and difficulty being understood.
  • Dysphagia: difficulties with eating normally (choking, coughing etc.).
  • Language: difficulty communicating verbally as a consequence of slowness with wich information is processed. Frequently, patients draw a blank and can´t find a way to express themselves correctly.
  • Partial or full facial paralysis: changes in the oral musculature (tongue, lips, soft palate, etc.) causing problems of speech, swallowing and facial expression.
  • Voice problems: voice sounds different than as usual, changes in intensity, tone and timbre, caused by breathing problems.