Speech & Swallowing Dysfunction with Multiple Sclerosis

| Rachel Wieneke

March continues to be Multiple Sclerosis (MS) month; a month dedicated to raising awareness of the diagnosis and treatment of MS. In the last few weeks, we have learned more about multiple sclerosis and its impact on cognitive functioning, as well as its impact on speech and swallowing. This week we will break down the speech-language pathologists (SLP) role in improving speech and swallowing dysfunction with MS.

Approximately 25-40% of individuals with MS experience “slurring of speech” also known as dysarthria.¹ This is especially true in the later stages of MS when fatigue becomes a factor. When it comes to speech dysfunction, a speech-language pathologist may suggest tips in energy conservation to increase loudness and clarity of speech. An SLP can also implement compensatory strategies such as encouraging a person to reduce the rate of their speech or increase articulation with specific sounds in order to make it easier for listeners to understand.

Dysphagia, or swallowing difficulties, can also impact people with MS.² Dysphagia can make keeping food/liquid in the mouth more difficult, it can cause trouble with chewing food thoroughly and efficiently, and can also cause throat clearing or coughing with solids and liquids. Swallowing difficulties are crucial to keep an eye on because, if they are left untreated, it can lead to the development of pneumonia. SLP’s are able to provide food/liquid ideas to make chewing/swallowing safer and more efficient. The SLP can also implement an exercise program to promote increased strength to the muscles of the mouth and throat. Finally, just like with speech strategies, SLP’s provide strategies and tips to make chewing and swallowing safer and more efficient.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with MS and have noticed changes in your speech or swallowing abilities, reach out to us. Speech-language pathology may help.

Live Your Life also offers wellness, rehabilitative and preventative types of SLP sessions in person or via Telehealth. These services are private pay. In addition, we offer a free consultation to determine which is most convenient for you and your loved ones.

Rachel Wieneke

Rachel Wieneke, M.A., CCC-SLP, graduated from the University of South Dakota in 2012 with a Master of Arts degree in Speech-Language Pathology and currently holds a Certificate of Clinical Competency from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She has experience in providing speech therapy to adolescents and adults, with increased focus in providing intervention for a receptive-expressive language, swallowing and cognition. Rachel is also certified in VitalStim Therapy which allows her to utilize neuromuscular electrical stimulation with her swallowing therapy.

As a therapist, Rachel values a patient centered approach and involves both the caregiver and patient when creating goals for intervention, as well as during her treatment sessions. She appreciates the relationships she builds with her patients and their families, as well as generalizing therapy to the home setting. Rachel believes that these aspects are vital in helping her patients succeed.

Rachel enjoys being outside with her husband and exploring the Twin Cities on their road bikes. She also enjoys spending time with both of their families, traveling, running and yoga.


¹MS Symptoms. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms. Accessed on 3/24/2020.

²Swallowing Problems. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Swallowing-Problems. Accessed on 3/24/2020.

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