Aim To investigate whether speech therapy using a speech systems approach to controlling breath support, phonation, and speech rate can increase the speech intelligibility of children with dysarthria and cerebral palsy (CP).
Method Sixteen children with dysarthria and CP participated in a modified time series design. Group characteristics were as follows: seven males, nine females; age range 12 to 18 years (mean 14y, SD 2); CP type: nine spastic, two dyskinetic, four mixed, one Worster–Drought; Gross Motor Function Classification System levels range I to V (median IV). Children received three 30- to 45-minute sessions of individual therapy per week for 6 weeks. Intelligibility in single words and connected speech was compared across four points: 1 week and 6 weeks before therapy, and 1 week and 6 weeks after its completion. Three familiar listeners and three unfamiliar listeners scored each recording. Mean percentage intelligibility was compared using general linear modelling techniques.
Results After treatment, familiar listeners understood 14.7% more single words and 12.1% more words in connected speech. Unfamiliar listeners understood 15% more single words and 15.9% more words in connected speech after therapy.
Interpretation Therapy was associated with increases in speech intelligibility. Effects of the therapy should be investigated further, in an exploratory trial with younger children and in a randomized controlled trial.