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Difficulty with speech


You’re in the middle of a sentence and suddenly…the words are just gone. Poof! Or, what you're saying doesn't match what you're thinking—which can definitely feel very weird when you first realize it. It can all be pretty confusing, but here’s a bit of clarification: speech is the how of talking—is our voice hoarse, or are we slurring words or mumbling? Language is the what—the actual words we use to share our thoughts and get our needs met. Disorders of speech and language have all kinds of intimidating names like dysarthria or apraxia (speech disorders caused by muscle weakness or motor problems, respectively) and aphasia (a language disorder that involves difficulty with understanding, speaking, reading, or writing). If you notice changes in your ability to speak (or someone else’s) and don’t know why, first try to find out what's going on. Being suddenly unable to speak clearly may signal a stroke, and that requires emergency attention. Whether it’s happening to you or someone you’re with, get medical help asap. Trouble speaking doesn’t always mean a stroke, though; it can also be a symptom of some other kind of nerve or brain disorder, since infections of the central nervous system (like Lyme) may lead to slurred or slow speech. If you don’t have a hard time speaking or understanding, but there are times when you just can’t find that dang word, try speaking slowly and using hand gestures when possible. It may be easier to type on a phone or tablet (thankfully, there’s an emoji for pretty much everything) or scribble on a piece of paper. While treatment is based on the underlying cause, your best bet is speech therapy. Acupuncture also shows promise for certain types of speech disorders. Let friends and family know what’s going on so they know to be patient when you’re talking, and reach out to your WanaFam for support—you don’t have to cope with this alone!

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