Slurred Speech, Poetry & Telephones

I must admit I feel a bit of a fraud in some ways here. Back in August last year I noticed I was generating a lot more saliva than usual, and didn’t really hear my slurred speech - until I rang the chip shop to try and place an order! I still thought nothing of it, but my wife was becoming increasingly concerned, and eventually - around the end of September, I rang our GP.

As I spoke she decided I needed to come in and see her - which I duly did, and she told me straight - I think you’ve had a stroke, and I’ll refer you to the stroke clinic, and speech therapy. Well, I got an appointment with the clinic on 10th November, had an MRI scan, ultrasound of my carotids, and an ECG.

The results were kind of inconclusive, and the consultant decided I was suffering from ‘Dysarthria’, but he couldn’t find any evidence of either bleeds on the brain, or other damage. Still waiting for a follow-up appointment, but I have had some useful sessions with the speech therapist.

But what I wanted to say/share was that I find no difficulty understanding what people are saying or doing, but immense difficulty initially in responding in a coherent manner. Placing an order over the phone still has its challenges, but … one thing I have learned is that if I practice reading a poem out loud - say “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe, and then record it on my mobile, I can judge where I need to out in more, or different effort when I play it back.

Never thought I’d enjoy searching out new poems to read now - back at school we had good old Walter De La Mere - but even Spike Milligan and Dylan Thomas have their challenges.

Sorry it’s a long winded post, but if anyone out there wants to give poetry a go, there are some blindingly good verses out there to get your teeth into - I do think it helps.


I’m not a poetry buff but one of my exercises is to read aloud every evening to my wife for a short time from my favourite reading book " The History of the Guitar in Jazz". It is full of tongue twisting names and can be quite a challenge. This is my fourth reading of the book and it is beginning to show serious signs of wear.
Stroke seems to hit people in many different ways, the only common factor I have noticed is the weariness that comes as standard, but I notice you gave no mention of it!
I knew Spike Milligan personally and I can tell you that to hear him reading his own poems was an unbelievable experience.

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Thanks Deigh.

That’s really interesting - I had noticed the fatigue too, and I should have mentioned it, as it can become very frustrating. Spike’s poetry is a joy, and just the sort of thing I would have read to the grandchildren a few years back.

My favourite books are railway and engineering books from around the turn of the 19th/20th century - and the phrasing is often very challenging.

Hope things continue to go well for you - stay safe, and keep reading out loud!!

Thanks - one of my key objectives/challenges is to be able to whistle again, which I was able to do well before (I even had complaints from workmates about that in the past!!), but I will settle for being able to get a sound out that sounds something like a note - never mind a tune!

But thanks again, and keep up the reading aloud.

Hello @RPB, welcome to the forum. I too am a Milligan aficionado, and have always enjoyed poetry in general. I recently finished a book of Lawrence Durrell’s poetry, but must admit, I didn’t like them. I have always enjoyed his prose but don’t rate his poems. Reading aloud is a wonderful thing to do, I don’t do it personally, but I would say that poetry has the right combination of phonemes and syllable-timed words to make it very useful for practising speech. My issue is with the right side of my cerebellum which was damaged, I have to practice parsing sentences as I struggle to recognise syntax when it comes to writing. Hope you are having a pleasant weekend.

Hi Mahoney. I have never been able to whistle but my husband does it all the time? I am more annoyed that I cannot drink through a straw since a stroke! I suppose that is not really important as long as I make progress in other ways.Lilian

I would be interested to.know if you can manage to use a straw.Lilian

Pre-stroke days I was a proficient whistler and when not smoking my pipe I would whistle. I was practicing hard on my warbling and had achieved limited success with it.

Since the stroke I’ve practiced daily to just be able to whistle again at all. All my family has a ‘code’ whistle and it is brilliant to use it in a crowd and find relatives. It took me over a year to recover that ability and even now it is very weak.

I whistle daily on my morning walks and am again trying to achieve the warble with limited success. The smoking had to go twenty five years ago so I have no excuse to interrupt my exercising.

Many years ago I tried yodelling and failed completely. In those days I would sing with guitar accompaniment. Singing came to an abrupt end the day after I bought my first tape recorder and heard what I sounded like!

Hi RPB like you feel a bit of a fraud on this site when I read the constant battles some folks daily face. A week before being stroked I sent a couple of video texts to a chum, checking them before sending them noted I was slurring on two occasions quipped “ sounds like I’ve been drinking can assure you I haven’t “ Then Wam ! Zapped. Blood pressure went through roof , glad you were picked up early and on going tests test and recovery package should put you back on rails. Think your suggestion about poetry great and there’s a something to suit everyone out there? Problem with me is with vision which I can just about cope with but it’s the cognitive processing that gets me some days, so this site is wonderful exercise for me to get the old cogs working. Welcome on board. Pds

I had a stroke in May 202o but I only suffered from Speech problems from November 2020. I had Speech Therapy in September and October 2021 and I still do the voice exercises and reading aloud. As a result of following the speech exercise plan, my voice has improved so I only slur when tired and I have been able to work at Waitrose for 19 hours a week over Xmas. Meeting and talking to people has helped my speech further and I am now a lot more confident in everything I do.

I’d be interested in that too - it never occurred to me about straws. I’m showing my age now I know, but the last time I remember drinking through a straw every day, was as a kid, with school milk, and those waxed paper types that used to fold up at the slightest hint of pressure.

Hope it works for you.

Mine seemed to creep up on me, and in a way similar to what you describe. It wasn’t until my wife had to get me to repeat things a few times, and the awful phone conversation with the chippy, but even then I put it down to something weird about the volume of saliva I was producing.

The speech therapist has helped enormously - and made me think about ways of controlling breathing as well as practising those tongue twisters.

I was wondering the other day why it seemed I was struggling to get the words out that I’d assembled in my head - I knew what I wanted to say, but it took me ages to control my breathing long enough. If I slow down, and don’t try to speak in too long a sentence it seems OK, but if I have to explain something I find part of my brain doesn’t want to play as quickly as the rest of the team. Speaking slowly is best for me, but I do worry that it can make my listener impatient, but thankfully so far, most people have been understanding.

I know what you mean about tiredness and slurring. At home I think I relax more, so I don’t concentrate/work as hard as I should perhaps. We were at a cafe the other day, and my task was to order the food at the counter, and pay for it - I cheat and use my mobile phone - and it certainly made me slow down and speak more clearly. Well it was either that or not get the food and drinks we wanted!!
Well done for being able to work over Christmas - I imagine that would give you a lot of confidence. Keep it up.

Interesting Updates on Dysarthria & Lack of Evidence for Stroke

A couple of weeks ago I had a further appointment with the consultant at my local stroke clinic, and after going through my scans in detail she does not see any evidence from these to suggest I have had a stroke to cause my speech challenges. Last week I had an appointment with an ENT consultant who was looking at the mechanics of my throat and palate functions - sticking a bit of fibre optic cable up my nostril for a good rummage around was such a joy!

But up to present, only the huge saliva pooling and dysarthria are the main symptoms - so we’re still hunting the cause, and waiting for the neurologist.

So, now feeling even more of a fraud. However, as I also have had epilepsy for the past 50 years or so, prime suspect for my dysarthria seems to be considering long term use of phenobarbital as a potential cause.

I guess I wasn’t expecting this, but have been trying to track down any research on the impact on the nervous system of this type of drug over years. If anyone out there has any thoughts about where to look that would be brilliant.

Hope everyone is still staying safe and well.