Children with motor impairments often have the motor speech disorder dysarthria, a condition which effects the tone, strength and co-ordination of any or all of the muscles used for speech. Resulting speech difficulties can range from mild, with slightly slurred articulation and breathy voice, to profound, with an inability to produce any recognisable words. Children with dysarthria are often prescribed communication aids to supplement their natural forms of communication. However, there is variation in practice regarding the provision of therapy focusing on voice and speech production. Descriptive studies have suggested that therapy may improve speech, but its effectiveness has not been evaluated.
To assess whether any speech and language therapy intervention aimed at improving the speech of children with dysarthria is more effective in increasing children's speech intelligibility or communicative participation than no intervention at all , and to compare the efficacy of individual types of speech language therapy in improving the speech intelligibility or communicative participation of children with dysarthria.
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2015 , Issue 7 ), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL , LLBA, ERIC, PsychInfo, Web of Science, Scopus, UK National Research Register and Dissertation Abstracts up to July 2015, handsearched relevant journals published between 1980 and July 2015, and searched proceedings of relevant conferences between 1996 to 2015. We placed no restrictions on the language or setting of the studies. A previous version of this review considered studies published up to April 2009. In this update we searched for studies published from April 2009 to July 2015.
We considered randomised controlled trials and studies using quasi-experimental designs in which children were allocated to groups using non-random methods.
One author (LP) conducted searches of all databases, journals and conference reports. All searches included a reliability check in which a second review author independently checked a random sample comprising 15% of all identified reports. We planned that two review authors would independently assess the quality and extract data from eligible studies.
No randomised controlled trials or group studies were identified.
This review found no evidence from randomised trials of the effectiveness of speech and language therapy interventions to improve the speech of children with early acquired dysarthria. Rigorous, fully powered randomised controlled trials are needed to investigate if the positive changes in children's speech observed in phase I and phase II studies are generalisable to the population of children with early acquired dysarthria served by speech and language therapy services. Research should examine change in children's speech production and intelligibility. It must also investigate children's participation in social and educational activities, and their quality of life, as well as the cost and acceptability of interventions.