Living with M.S.

"Living with M.S. is sort of like training for a long race. The harder you try, and the longer you keep at it, the stronger you become.
Eventually, looking back, you may be amazed at the power you possessed, even when you had no idea it was within your reach." (Linda Ann Nickerson)


When words fail: MS and speech difficulties

Do you ever trip up in your talk? Multiple sclerosis warriors know all about tripping. We can stumble in our steps. We can fall over our own feet or even trip going upstairs. But we can also stagger when we speak.

We’re not tongue-tied or at a loss for words. The cat has not got our tongues. It’s the MS MonSter, striking again. And this time, it’s messing with our mouths. Doctors call it dysphasia.


Dysphasia is different from dysphagia, but some MSers can have both.

Dysphasia is about speech issues. For those with MS, it often shows up when we inadvertently substitute one word for another or mix up word orders in our sentences. Personally, I sometimes say the wrong word, but it starts with the same letter (or phonetic sound) as the word I mean to say. For example, I might say:

garbage instead of garage
cluck instead of clock
willow instead of window
constant instead of consistent
design instead of device

When this happens, it isn’t that we aren’t thinking clearly. We know what we mean. The wrong word just comes out. It’s like a blip of static, or like our tongues aren’t listening clearly to our brains for a moment.

It’s not exactly stuttering. Most of us actually come out with recognizable words. They’re just the wrong words, when dysphasia does its thing. And we’re not plunging unintentionally into profanity (like in Tourette’s). We’re just confusing verbage. And we know it, when we hear it. 

Usually, we can sort of laugh it off, but it can also be rather frustrating. And it only happens when we speak out loud, not when we write. 

Some MSers experience expressive dysphasia, which means they cannot recall vocabulary that they actually know and have trouble forming speech (at least momentarily). Those who struggle to process and comprehend others’ speech may have receptive dysphasia. Any of this can crop up with MS, but these manifestations are usually temporary (or intermittent).

Others with MS may experience slurred or slowed speech, vocal weakness, or difficulties with pitch or volume. This points to a speech disorder called dysarthria.

Dysphagia refers to a difficulty in swallowing. This might include gagging, choking, or a feeling that food is stuck in one’s throat. That’s also common with MSers, and considerably more concerning than a few mixed-up words.

Adapted by this user from public domain image

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1 comment:

  1. Re dysphasia and "And it only happens when we speak out loud, not when we write". It's not like that for me and maybe there's a different term again for that problem. I have trouble with both handwriting and with typing. And I've been typing for over 40 years and used to have a speed of up to 60wpm (300 characters a minute). To do handwriting is become more of a struggle as time passes, but when I stuff-up or lose words it makes it even worse - at least with word processing you can fix the mistakes. With typing I sometimes type the wrong word the same as the example of garbage and garage given above, or I will type a word with all the correct letters but in completely the wrong order, or will miss a word out completely, or will type a word twice. Thank heavens for spellchecker, although it won't always pick up the mistakes where I've missed words out or used the wrong words.


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