Guillain-Barre and Communication Difficulties

Many patients with GBS begin to have difficulty communicating verbally because the nerves that control the muscles of speech become affected by the syndrome. In severe cases of GBS, a patient may need to use Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC), for either a short or long-term solution.

The Speech and Language Therapist is involved in assessment and implementation of the use of an AAC device or other methods to help the patient communicate during each stage of BGS. They can also help to rehabilitate the patients speech during the recovery stage.

Speech and Language Therapists also assess and treat motor speech disorders (dysarthria) that develop due to neurological damage. Dysarthria is a speech disorder caused by damage to parts of the nervous system that controls the muscles used for speech. There are many different types of dysarthria, but in GBS, patients who develop dysarthria typically have the Flaccid dysarthria type. Flaccid dysarthria is caused by the denervation of muscles, which causes weakness and may make them more challenging to understand. Ataxic dysarthria is another type of dysarthria a patient with GBS may have, particularly if they have the Miller-Fisher variant. People with Ataxic dysarthria have slurred speech with inconsistent speech errors, also making them more difficult to understand.

Speech and Language Therapists can offer strategies to make a patient’s speech more understandable. They may recommend:

  1. Overarticulating (moving the mouth more than usual)
  2. Talking slowly with pauses in between words
  3. Talking loudly
  4. Turning off or removing background noises