24 Dysarthria Exercises for Adult Speech Therapy

In this post, you’ll find 24 dysarthria exercises, strategies, and treatment ideas for your adult speech therapy patients.

As always, we added extras to make your life easier, including step-by-step instructions, word lists, reading materials, and free PDFs.

Bookmark this page to open during treatment. Or feel free to copy and print the resources in this article.

For pre-made handouts and materials, visit our shop!

dysarthria exercises pdf

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Dysarthria Treatment Tips

dysarthria treatment tips

Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder caused by weakness of the speech muscles. Dysarthric speech may sound unclear, mumbled, or slurred.

Common causes of dysarthria are stroke, ALS, and Parkinson’s Disease.

When deciding which dysarthria treatments to choose, focus on your patient’s underlying impairment.

To do this, ask yourself:

  • What signs and symptoms am I seeing?
  • Will speech therapy improve their ability to communicate more naturally and intelligibly?
  • If yes, what subsystem is impacting their speech naturalness and intelligibly the most?
  • If no, who should I refer out to?

Encourage follow-through at home. And encourage caregivers to use their listener strategies. More on those below.

Remember that the ultimate goal of dysarthria therapy is to improve your patient’s quality of life—which you can only identify by listening to their wants and needs. Always start there!

1. Use The Principles of Neuroplasticity

When treating dysarthria, keep in mind how an injured brain recovers.

Use the principles of neuroplasticity and motor learning to make your speech therapy treatment as effective as possible.

Principles of neuroplasticity:

  1. Use it or lose it. If the part of the brain that controls a function isn’t activated, you’ll lose function.
  2. Use it and improve it. The more you practice a specific brain function, the more that function will improve.
  3. Be specific. Brain changes happen in the parts of the brain being activated.
  4. Repetition. You’ll learn a movement better if you practice that movement a lot and over an extended period of time.
  5. Intensity. You need a certain threshold of intensity (e.g., length of exercise, number of sessions) to induce neuroplasticity. But, this is not true for neuromuscular disease (i.e. ALS).
  6. Time Matters. Different forms of neuroplasticity happen at different times in the brain injury recovery process. However, treating earlier is usually better.
  7. Salience. Meaningful activity maximizes neuroplasticity.
  8. Age. Although younger brains have more neuroplasticity, older brains can still change (but at a slower rate).
  9. Transference. Neuroplasticity from one training experience (e.g. loud speech) sometimes transfers to or enhances related skills (swallowing).
  10. Interference. Not all neuroplasticity is good! An example is a compensatory behavior that interferes with regaining the desired function.

(Kleim, 2008)

Read 10 Principles of Neuroplasticity for more on how to use these principles in your speech therapy practice.

And read The Principles of Motor Learning for more ways to maximize your motor speech treatment.

Dysarthria Treatment Exercises for Articulation

dysarthria articulation exercises

2. Give Articulation Cues

Practice the sound groups that your patient is having trouble with while offering helpful cues and feedback.

During articulation treatment, give:

  1. Phonetic placement cues (how to position the mouth, tongue, lips, or jaw during speech)
  2. Biofeedback about positioning (use a mirror, take pictures or video, etc.)
  3. Models of correct positioning
  4. Encouragement!

For more articulation exercises and materials, visit our shop.

3. Use A Hierarchy of Speech Sounds

dysarthria articulation treatment

Treat articulation by using a hierarchy of speech sounds:

1. Sounds in Isolation

2. Syllables

  • Puh
  • Paw
  • Pee
  • Poo
  • Buh
  • Bee
  • Boo
  • Bow
  • Muh
  • Me
  • Mow
  • My

3. Words

  • Page
  • Peace
  • Peer
  • Puck
  • Peek
  • Bake
  • Beak
  • Bed
  • Bash
  • Beef
  • Meat
  • Maze
  • Move
  • More
  • Met

4. Longer words

  • Parking
  • Painful
  • Polite
  • Peaceful
  • Package
  • Birthday
  • Bottle
  • Baggage
  • Breathy
  • Boyish
  • Marvel
  • Master
  • Molar
  • Minimal
  • Multitude

5. Minimal pairs

  • Ten/Hen
  • Name/Lame
  • Lane/Lake
  • Cut/Cup
  • Knit/Sit
  • Pass/Pad
  • Zen/Pen
  • Gain/Game
  • Bank/Sank
  • Set/Get

6. Phrases

  • I say ____
  • ____ is the word
  • The word is ____
  • Two bananas
  • Credit Card
  • Rest Area
  • Good Luck
  • Local bank
  • The end
  • Left turn only
  • How are you?

Aphasia Readers offers free PDF practice phrases, organized by theme (holidays, pets, etc.)

7. Sentences for Dysarthria Treatment

  • Good to see you!
  • I hope to arrive early.
  • Take one pill with water.
  • The best bookseller for board books is in Boston.
  • Pass the pepper to my plate.
  • Must we move to Montana on Monday?

8. Conversations for Dysarthria Treatment

  • What is your favorite season and why?
  • What would you do if you inherited a million dollars?
  • What are your favorite sporting events and why?
  • What would you do if you were 25 again?
  • Coffee or tea? Why?

9. Fun Bonus! Tongue Twisters

  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
  • She sells seashells by the seashore
  • Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?
  • Seventy-seven benevolent elephants
  • Betty bought some butter, but the butter was bitter, so Betty bought some better butter to make the bitter butter better
  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  • Many an anemone sees an enemy anemone
  • A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk, but the stump thunk the skunk stunk

4. Use A Pacing Board

pacing board for dysarthria

Use a pacing board to slow down a patient’s speech rate. This can help their speech become more intelligible.

How to use a pacing board:

  • Place the pacing board in front of the patient.
  • For moderate or severe dysarthria, have the patient practice reading short phrases or sentences, pointing to one dot per syllable on the pacing board.
  • Increase the challenge to longer sentences, paragraphs, etc.
  • As they get used to self-pacing, have the patient point to one dot per syllable during simple conversations.
  • For milder dysarthria, start pointing to one dot per syllable at the sentence level and while holding a conversation (small talk, etc.) Increase to self-paced reading and conversation, as appropriate.

Download our free pacing board.

5. What About Non-Speech Oral Motor Exercises?

Non-speech oral motor exercises are widely used by speech-language pathology professionals to improve articulation. Examples include lip and tongue strengthening and range of motion exercises.

There’s currently not enough evidence to either support or refute whether non-speech oral motor exercises improve articulation (Lass & Pannbacker, 2008; Mackenzie et al, 2014; McCauley et al, 2009).

ASHA’s Practice Portal does recommend using a shaping technique (phonetic derivation) as a treatment option. For example, shaping blowing into /u/.

While this technique uses non-speech elements to improve articulation, its goal is to produce specific target sounds. This is different from oral motor exercises, which aim to strengthen weak muscles and/or improve muscle coordination.

If you believe that your patients would benefit from non-speech oral motor exercise, we recommend reading the literature and making your own evidence-based decision.

Dysarthria Treatment Exercises for Intelligibility

dysarthria intelligibility

6. Teach Intelligibility Tips

Signal The Start
Let your listener know when you’re about to start talking. You can lift your hand, make eye contact, write it down, etc.

Name the Topic
Say 2-3 words to set your topic.

Keep it Simple
Use easier words and sentence structures.

Use Gestures
Point, use hand gestures, shrug, shake your head, use facial expressions, etc. to help make your point.

Signal the End
Avoid interruptions by holding up one finger. Signal when you’re finished by holding out your palm to the listener.

Use a Pen and Paper or Alphabet Board
Write the first letter of the word you’re trying to say on a pad of paper/whiteboard or use an alphabet board.

Download our free Differential Diagnosis Chart if you need help telling the difference between dysarthria, aphasia, and apraxia of speech.  

7. Teach Clear Speech Strategies

clear speech strategies

Teach your patients the following clear speech strategies. Practice these strategies by reading increasingly longer tasks out loud.

See the hierarchy of reading tasks below for word lists.


Increase your volume

Take breaths more often; insert pauses every few words

For more intelligibility exercises and materials, visit our shop.

8. Use A Hierarchy of Reading Tasks

reading dysarthria treatment exercises

Have patients practice the intelligibility tips and clear speech strategies with a hierarchy of reading tasks.

Start where your patients are at, then increase the challenge as they improve.

1. Phrases

Click for a list of phrases.

2. Sentences

Click for a list of sentences.

3. Paragraphs

JaToya took her dogs out for a walk. Their normal route was blocked by construction, but the new route she chose was beautiful. They walked over two miles.

Washington State is known for being a rainy place. This is not unfounded, as some of its cities have over 140 rainy days per year. Washington rain, however, is usually a drizzle. When measuring the total inches of rain per year, Washington is only the 29th rainiest state. The frequency of rainy days in the western part of the state makes it a green, vibrant place most of the year. Locals know to invest in good waterproof jackets.

Osaka, pronounced “OH-saw-ka,” is the second-largest city in Japan. It is also one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of over 20 million people. Osaka is considered Japan’s economic center. It is home to electronics giants Panasonic, Sharp, and Sanyo. Osaka is also one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in—more expensive even than New York City or Los Angeles.

4. Page-Level Reading

To keep treatment functional and patient-centered, it’s best to use books, magazines, or other materials that your patient is already reading.

For free classic books in the public domain, check out Project Gutenberg.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

“Do not you want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.

You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

“What is his name?”


“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so? how can it affect them?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design! nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.”

“I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party.”

“My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.”

“In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.”

“But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood.”

“It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”

“But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him, if you do not.”

“You are over scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy.”

“I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference.”

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

Dysarthria Treatment Exercises for Phonation

dysarthria phonation exercises

Signs and symptoms of impaired phonation:

  1. Decreased ability to phonate
  2. Abnormal pitch and pitch breaks
  3. Excessive loudness
  4. Abnormal vocal quality
  5. Speaking only in short phrases

9. Teach Breath Control Exercises

breathing exercises dysarthria

These exercises are for people who can’t phonate at all.

They aim to build the patient’s ability to phonate so that they can move on to the more advanced exercises described below.

These are NOT for patients who can’t phonate due to vocal cord paralysis.

Refer patients with vocal fold weakness or paralysis to an ENT or voice specialist.

Patient Instructions:

  1. Breath in slowly for 3 seconds
  2. Hold your breath for 3 seconds
  3. Release the air slowly for 3 seconds
  4. Continue breathing in this controlled manner
  5. Now, when you exhale, hold out these sounds for as long as you can:
    • hhh
    • sss
    • thhh
    • fff
    • shhh
  6. Next, add vowels to the end of the sounds and hold them out for as long as you can:
    • hhha, hhhoe, hhhi, hhhow, whho
    • sssah, ssso, ssseee, sssow, sssue
    • thhhaw, thhho, thhhee, thhhow, thhhew
    • fffa, fffoe, fffeee, fffow, fffoo
    • shhha, shhhow, shhhe, shhhaow, shhhoe

10. Treat Vocal Fold Hypoadduction

treat vocal fold hypoadduction

Use effort closure techniques to treat hypoadduction of the vocal folds. These techniques aim to increase the force of vocal fold adduction.

  • Clasp hands together, then squeeze the palms together as hard as possible
  • If seated on a chair, grasp the sides of the seat and pull upward or push downward with both hands
  • Interlace hands and push outward

11. Treat Vocal Cord Hyperadduction

Patients with hyperadduction of the vocal folds may present with abnormal vocal quality and too much loudness.

Treat hyperadduction by practicing light articulatory contacts (articulators move and touch lightly) and easy phonation (exhale then slowly turn on the voice).

Practice these strategies with light sounds:

Light Sounds


12. Offer LSVT LOUD®, SPEAK OUT!®, or Pitch Limiting Voice Treatment

LSVT loud for dysarthria

LSVT LOUD, SPEAK OUT!, and Pitch Limiting Voice Treatment are three evidence-based voice treatments for people with Parkinson’s Disease.

LSVT LOUD increases vocal intensity by focusing on high phonatory effort to think loud and speak loud.

SPEAK OUT! emphasizes that patients speak with intent to produce a stronger, clearer voice.

And Pitch Limiting Voice Treatment (PLVT) teaches patients to speak loud and low to increase vocal intensity without excessive pitch or hypertension of laryngeal muscles.

To learn more about these treatments, read LSVT LOUD® vs SPEAK OUT!® vs PLVT.

For more phonation exercises and materials, visit our shop.

Dysarthria Exercises for Respiration

Aspire • Aspire
Image from emst150.com

13. Do Respiratory Muscle Strength Training (RMST)

Respiratory muscle strength training exercises treat respiratory muscle weakness.

RMST is recommended for patients with significant respiratory weakness whose speech is unintelligible because they run out of breath.

RMST includes both expiratory muscle strength training (EMST) and inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST).

EMST and IMST use handheld devices that a patient exhales or inhales forcefully into. The device offers resistance, only opening and allowing airflow when a certain threshold of effort is reached.

Examples are the EMST 150™ (pictured above) and the POWERbreathe® Medic.

14. Postural Adjustments

Encourage your patient to sit upright to improve breath support for speech.

Position yourself, materials, communication partners, etc. in a way that facilitates an upright posture.

15. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Patient Instructions:

  1. Put one hand on your stomach and your other hand on your chest. Feel your stomach rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Repeat for one minute.
    • When you breathe in: Your stomach pushes out. The hand on your chest should remain still.
    • When you breathe out: Tighten your stomach muscles and feel them pull in. The hand on your chest should remain still.
  2. Breathe in, feeling your stomach push out. As you breathe out, say the following sounds and words, remaining aware of your stomach slowly pulling in.
    • Start with voiceless sounds like, ‘sss’ and ‘shh.’ Hold each for as long as you can
    • Gradually work up to vowel sounds like, ‘ahh’ and ‘ooh’
    • Work up to single words like, ‘hello’ and your first name
    • Gradually work up towards longer words, phrases, and sentences

16. Inspiratory Checking

inspiratory checking

Teach the inspiratory checking technique to patients who ‘run out of air’ when they speak.

  • Take as deep a breath as possible. Hold for a few seconds. Feel how full your lungs and stomach feel. Relax your body as you exhale. Repeat a few times.
  • Inhale 50% of your maximum amount. Let the air out slowly. Repeat a few times.
  • Inhale 50% and speak. Say sentences as soon as you begin exhaling:
    • My name is…
    • My birthday is…

Once the patient has mastered short sentences, move on to longer, functional tasks.

Read texts, menus, or book passages aloud. Encourage them to use this technique when speaking in everyday life.

Breath Control Exercises

Click for step-by-step treatment instructions.

17. Building Up Breath Control

breath support dysarthria

Print out reading material then add slash marks between words to denote a new breath group.

Where you put the slash marks will depend on each patient’s skill level.

Patient Instructions:

Use your breath support strategies (from the above exercises) while saying the following. You may take breaths as needed.

  1. Who, what, where, when why, how
  2. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  3. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten
  4. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune
  5. January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
  6. She had three soft feathers

For more respiration exercises and materials, visit our shop.

Dysarthria Treatment Exercises for Prosody

dysarthria exercises for adults

The goal of treating prosody is to help your patients’ speech sound more natural and intelligible.

18. Sentence Stress

sentence stress dysarthria

Patient Instructions:

To improve your prosody, emphasize the bold word in each sentence. Emphasize the word by speaking it louder and with a higher pitch than the other words.

Exaggerate as much as you can! Try using a sing-song voice, like a school teacher.

How are YOU?
How ARE you?
HOW are you?

Where IS she?
Where is SHE?
WHERE is she?

I don’t KNOW
don’t know
DON’T know

What a FUNNY story!
WHAT a funny story!
What a funny STORY!

WHAT a lovely day.
What a LOVELY day.
What a lovely DAY.

For more sentences, check out the Motor Speech Pack on our shop.

19. Heteronyms

dysarthria treatment exercises heteronyms

Patient Instructions:

Improve your prosody by emphasizing the bolded heteronym in each pair of sentences below.

Emphasize how each is pronounced by increasing the loudness and pitch of your voice. Exaggerate as much as possible!

The subject was pretty boring.
Please don’t subject me to math.

Let’s resume the interview.
I need to submit my resume for the job.

Please relay my message to your boss.
The project was a relay race of tasks.

She can be such a rebel when she’s angry.
She will rebel when she hears the bad news.

Communication Partner Tips for Dysarthria

dysarthria communication partner tips

20. Dysarthria Listener Tips

Teach each patient’s communication partners the following listener tips.

Use these tips if you have a hard time understanding what a loved one is saying.

  1. Give your full attention
    • Listen and watch the entire time the person is speaking
  2. Confirm the topic
    • Check that you and the speaker are both on the same topic
    • “Are we still talking about…?”
  3. Use keywords
    • Refer back to words the speaker said to try to create a full narrative
    • “You said ‘dinner’. Were you talking about dinner with your family next week?”
  4. Encourage writing, drawing, or gesturing
  5. Repeat each word
    • If the speaker is especially hard to understand, repeat each word they say. Confirm that each word is correct before moving on to the next word
  6. Set ground rules
    • To avoid frustration, have a set number of times the speaker tries to say something before they take a break or use AAC

21. Use An Alphabet Board (AAC)

Learn more about the different types of AAC in How To Make An E-Tran Board.

Ways to Use an Alphabet Board

  • The patient points to the first letter of the word and says the word
  • The patient spells out the entire word
  • The patient spells out the code for a message on a code board

Tips for Listeners

  • Make sure that the alphabet board is always within the patient’s reach
  • Give the patient plenty of time to select each letter
  • Confirm each letter the patient chooses by saying it aloud
  • Only guess a word when you’re 90% sure you know what the word is

For AAC boards and materials, check out our shop.

Compensatory Strategies for Dysarthria

personal amplifier dysarthria
Image from amazon.com

22. Use A Personal Amplifier

Personal amplifiers increase the loudness of a patient’s voice in noisy settings, like in a restaurant or a store.

It helps others understand them better and also helps patients avoid yelling and fatigue.

Personal amplifiers are available for sale at major retailers, including Amazon.com.

Use A Communication Board

See the Alphabet Board section above.

23. Make Environmental Modifications

environmental modifications dysarthria

Here are environment modifications to help your patients be understood more easily:

  • Choose a quiet setting. Turn off the TV and fans, shut the window, etc.
  • Choose an area with good lighting
  • Avoid visual distractions
  • Make sure that the speaker and communication partner are face-to-face and close enough
  • Have a communication board or a notepad and pencil handy
  • Use videoconferencing (FaceTime, Zoom, etc.) instead of phone calls
  • Telecommunications Relay Service offers a specially trained communication assistant to mediate phone calls for patients (the Americans with Disabilities Act requires telephone companies to provide the service for free)

Read Environmental Modifications for Parkinson’s Disease.

24. Resonance Treatment for Dysarthria

Patients with velopharyngeal incompetence may benefit from surgery or a prosthesis to improve hypernasal resonance.

Speak with their PCP to recommend an ENT, prosthodontist, dentist, plastic surgeon, etc. referral, as appropriate.

Learn more about how to treat resonance and hypernasality.

More Dysarthria Resources

Visit our shop for pre-made dysarthria treatment activities, handouts, wordlists, and much more!


  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Dysarthria in adults [Practice portal]. Retrieved Jan, 2024 from https://www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Clinical-Topics/Dysarthria-in-Adults/
  • Brewer, C. (2021). The Adult Speech Therapy Workbook. Harmony Road Design
  • Communication and Dysarthria (2018). American Stroke Association. Retrieved Jan, 2024 from https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/effects-of-stroke/cognitive-and-communication-effects-of-stroke/communication-and-dysarthria
  • Kanapathy, N. (2018). Clinical Review: Dysarthria, Hypokinetic. Cinahl Informations Systems.
  • Kleim, J.A.; Jones, T.A. (2008) Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: implications for rehabilitation after brain damage. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 51(1):S225-39
  • Lass, N.J. & Pannbacker, M. (2008). The application of evidence-based practice to non speech oral motor treatment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 39, 408-421.
  • Levitt, JS. & Walker-Batson, D. (2018). The Effects of The “Speak with Intent” Instruction for Individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Communications Disorders and Assistive Technology, 1, 1-15.
  • Mackenzie, C., Muir, M., Allen, C., & Jensen, A. (2014). Non-speech pro-motor exercises in post-stroke dysarthria intervention: a randomized feasibility trial. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 49(5), 602-617.
  • McCauley, R.J., Strand, E., Lof, G.L., Schooling, T. & Frymark, T. (2009). Evidence-Based Systematic Review: Effects of Nonspeech Oral Motor Exercises on Speech. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18, 343-360.
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