Do you experience speech problems as a result of your multiple sclerosis? Many people do. However, there are many things that you can do to overcome these issues. This article examines seven strategies that help patients communicate effectively despite the challenges they face.
Speech problems are one of the most common issues patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) face. Whether you’re struggling to speak, stuttering or finding it difficult to pronounce words, here are seven tips that can help you overcome speech problems.
If you are living with multiple sclerosis, you may have noticed that your speech has become slurred. And this isn’t the only common speech problem that people living with multiple sclerosis experience. For tips about how to overcome common speech problems, please continue reading.
1 USE WORKOUTS FOR SPEECH PROBLEMS
One of the most useful strategies for speech is exercising. To do this effectively, your muscles and joints must be spared. Thus, solve the problem by making workout sessions as brisk as possible.
For many, moving around easily is an impediment to talking comfortably. For example, athletes with tight hamstrings, ankles or shoulders talk with difficulty. Such problems are exacerbated if you have existing speech disorders.
There are ways to deal with this. One way is to let the exercise become cardiovascular.
For example, run uphill, climb stairs or do pushups in place. You might try pausing at each exercise briefly to speak in between breaths. This can be helpful for helping your brain identify the correct muscles to activate during the task.
2 CREATE CLARIFICATIONS
An important condition to help quiet your voice is to create clarifications.
Consider how your emotions impact your speaking with MS. Sometimes anger or frustration can cause difficulties listening. This can be worsened if you’re already under a lot of strain.
Create concise questions that are true to the topic at hand. Consider whether you could say these more clearly if your voice was better.
At the same time, keep in mind that your delivery must remain as conversational as possible. On the one hand, you don’t want to appear rude. On the other, you don’t want the people listening to think you are speaking in a monotone.
3 ENGAGE WITH EARLIER PATTERNS
This strategy is compound with #1. It is also important to bring up issues you previously dealt with or heard about with others. For example, have conversations about your symptoms or the latest developments in MS research.
4 USE ELECTRICALS
Using an electrical device that records your voice will remind you where you are and can even tell time. This is very helpful for people who have short memories.
The problem arises when the device allows you to speak while you’re in another room. This isn’t ideal if you need to engage with the people you are speaking with at the time. Try using the device rather than a microphone for meetings.
Additionally, these devices can be useful for avoiding awkward silences when you need to pause for breath.
5 USE PHONETIC MUSCLES
Our voices do use phonetic tones, so before you consider any law or technological tweak, it’s important to talk in order of frequency, not pitch.
For example, a C sounds like a B, an F sounds like a D and a K sounds like an F.
There’s nothing quite like a good rant and it’s one thing to come up with a diagnosis of MS as the culprit. However, it’s another thing to figure out what to do first. Does it really matter when you’re diagnosed since it’s not like you’ll immediately start seeing changes in your life (as if weight loss is a quick fix)?
Can your ability to speak really change that much? What about the long-term impact it could have on your quality of life?
At a neurology clinic, I often find that MS patients need a lot of “white space” in their daily lives. This is a space where they can be fully present and engage in their activities without causing issues. The white space is ideally located in your workplace or at home. You need a place to be with yourself and still focus on your work.
The hardest part of anything is talking about it, so why not talk about it first?
The Top 7 Strategies for Effective Communication
Watch your facial features. MS patients are very aware of how their bodies look and what they look like. They often make choices about what they will wear based on this visual cue. It’s important to know you will often be times when this doubt creeps in as they reflect on short road trips and long drives, how they are able to navigate traffic and postcards at their favourite learning spots, and even how they will put items in their backpacks and purses when meeting other MS patients. When these images are in the forefront of their minds, it can cause them anxiety. If these concerns arise, sit down with your caregiver to talk about how MS affects their lives and talk about the things that are positive about this disease and these challenges.
Focus on the little things. When it comes to being visible, there is a small list of universal essentials that help MS patients feel safe and take care of themselves: hats, glasses, socks, gloves, glasses with touch screen technology and going through airport security in the morning. When I sit down with a patient, these things are often discussed first. By using strategies like simple daily habits, it’s easy to craft a plan to be healthy instead of noticeable. These small things increase your mental energy and allow you to be more present and talk about the things that are important to you without having to focus on what you might look like in a hospital gown.
Use humour. MS patients are socially driven, active people and many of us live an active, demanding life.
When Maor Shwartzman learned that she had MS, she was so angry she would never be able to work again that she contemplated suicide. However, she decided to take her condition into her own hands when she developed a set of dangerous habits that “unduly affected her speech.” Her user agreements could have prevented her from doing things like leaving the house with headphones in, but she didn’t care. Looking back,
I figured what the hell, this is going to help me, I’ll get better fasterMaor Shwartzman
After adapting her MS software to allow unscripted follow-up questions, tying up her loose ends, and testing her with Rosetta Stone, her speech improved over a matter of months from aphasia and stuttering to complete understanding.
Shwartzman’s story shows that changing one’s software settings can be extremely helpful. Many people learn to cope with the effects of MS by adopting certain habits. In doing so, they actively work to overcome the barrier of aphasia and stuttering.
Other strategies that have helped MS patients is to learn to have self-control and to stop taking away people’s ideas.
When you have a lot of ideas you don’t know how to prioritize, the ability to quiet down and organize your thoughts can have a huge ripple effect, Gluckar says. Having self-control gives you the strength to hold off on executing an idea that you don’t particularly enjoy or a task that you don’t completely understand.
Getting into a routine where you do things in small steps over time helps you develop the skills to seat all those projects on the same plane of focusGluckar
If you’ve had trouble staying organized for any length of time, practising this exercise will help you develop the muscle to prioritize and sort through your thoughts.
This exercise requires some conscious exercises, but once you get the hang of it, it allows you to fill the times when you can’t think of what to do or whyGluckar
Treatment options for MS are many, but it’s clear neurosurgeon and MS Center CEO William R. Floyd sees improvement with the development of new technology.
In the mid-1990s, MS patients with memory impairment often only had several months left to live. Today people with the condition emerge with improvements in their fine motor skills, fluency, and understanding.
With advances in classroom-based learning that requires a patient’s attention span and sustained focus over a long period of time, we can treat patients very effectively with medications and therapies that subsequently accelerate recoveryFloyd
A lot of work has gone into bringing you this post. We hope you found it interesting and informative. If you have a question, please ask it in the comments at the foot of this post.
If you don’t have a question you can use the comment to say “Hi”. If you have MS – stay strong and follow the warrior code.