Can You Say That​ Again?

By now you might have seen or at least heard of the interview with fellow MS warrior Selma Blair this week. And while I, like I’m sure every other warrior, watched it about 10 times, cried with her, laughed with her, and understood exactly what she was going through. However, I stopped short when she put a name to the speech disorder she is currently dealing with, and I did some digging.

Spasmodic Dysphonia is a rare neurological disorder also known as laryngeal dystonia. This speech disorder is characterized by involuntary muscle spasms of the larynx or voice box. SD causes the voice to break or to have a tight strained or strangles quality and appears mostly in women and can appear between the ages of 20-50.[1]

Since the same muscles, structures and neural pathways are used for both speech and voice production SD is said to be a form of Dysarthria. Dysarthria is a speech disorder caused by neuromuscular impairment. This impairment can cause problems with articulation, speaking rate, and intelligibility.  MS-related dysarthria is more likely to affect your rate of speaking or conversational flow. [2]

Some  examples of Dysarthria include:

  1. Slurred Speech
  2. Scanning Speech or when you speak really slowly with long pauses between words and syllables of words
  3. “Explosive” speech with episodes of loud, rapid speech production.

There are three types of Dysarthria:

  1. Spastic Dysarthria- where experience muscle stiffness or tightness usually the voice is harsh and strained, speech is slow, and there is a reduction of loudness or mono-loudness
  2. Ataxic Dysarthria- where you experience loss of muscle movement or control usually the voice is tremored, speech is scanned, and there can be excess and variable loudness
  3. Mixed Dysarthria- a combination of Ataxic and Spastic

Dysarthria is caused by nerve damage and with MD or Mixed Dysarthria the nerve damage can include the brains white matter and/ or cerebellum, brainstem and or spinal cord. Mixed Dysarthria is the most common in people with MS. Why? Because MS affects multiple areas of your nervous system…Lucky us right?

So what can we do?

Although there are currently no cures for either Dysarthria or Dysphonia, a Speech Language Pathologist can help.

Depending on the type of Dysarthria experienced an SLP can help with exercises. Doctors are currently injecting Botox into one or both vocal folds for Dysphonia. The Botox weakens the muscles in the larynx causing the vocal cords from spasming.

With both speech disorders, a Speech Therapist can assist with helping with producing a better voice.


If you need help finding an SLP near you please visit Profind


[1] “Spasmodic Dysphonia” Accessed 28 Feb. 2019.

[2]”Dysphonia: A Speech- Related Symptom of MS”



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