Speech and communication
MND can cause weakness in the tongue, lips, vocal cords and chest, causing speech to become faint, slurred or unclear. It can also affect gesture and facial expression. This means communication can become increasingly difficult as your symptoms progress, but there are techniques and communication aids that can help. Select from the following options to find out more.
“It’s very hard to anticipate the progression of the disease before the effects are actually happening to you.” Person with MND
Many communication aids are expensive and your needs can change with MND. Before buying equipment, ask your GP to be referred to a speech and language therapist for an assessment. This will help work out your current and likely needs in the future.
A speech and language therapist (SLT) can help by advising on techniques to use your voice effectively and communication aids to suit you.
Our Communication Aids Service can also help with queries. The service provides limited financial support for aids or some items on loan, if unavailable or delayed through external health and social care services. Contact MND Connect for details.
Our pocket sized booklet What you should expect from your care can support discussions with health and social care professionals, including speech and language therapists. This may help lead to better outcomes for treatment and care with MND and contains the main points from the NICE guideline on motor neurone disease. NICE guidelines are produced by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence, providing recommendations to help professionals support specific conditions, such as MND.
Communication aids to help you continue communicating range from simple tools like word or image boards to high-tech electronic aids.
There is no ‘best’ type of communication aid, as individual preferences, abilities and needs vary. Not all communication aids suit everyone and some can be expensive – see Who can help? above for guidance.
We provide guidance on support and communication aids in our information sheet: 7C – Speech and communication support.
Powered communication aids often come with a synthesised voice that speaks the messages you enter into them. However, if your voice weakens with MND, you may wish to use your own recorded voice on devices.
This can be done in two ways, through message banking or voice banking. Simple overviews are given here and you can also see our animated video What is voice and message banking? in the next drop down option on this page.
Message banking is a simple process where you record words, phrases and longer passages that you might use a lot, or for special messages. When replayed, these will sound exactly as you recorded them to help you maintain a sense of identity. These messages can also help you communicate emotions in a way that a synthesised voice cannot do. You can even include recordings of sounds and reactions, such as laughter.
Voice banking enables you to record sample words and phrases that can be used as a synthesised version of your voice. You can then use this version of your voice to create new phrases and sentences. The voice banking process can take some time, as you need to record lots of spoken phrases to enable your synthesised voice to work. The process needs to be completed as early as possible after diagnosis, when your speech is still clear. Family members or friends can bank their voices for you to use if you wish – this may help you use a familiar accent. Our Communication Aids Service can provide guidance on the voice banking process. OurMND Connect helpline can provide contact details for this service.
We provide more information on the voice banking process in our information sheet: 7D – Voice banking and message banking