Speech Pathology for Ataxia


Ataxia is an umbrella term for a group of neurological diseases that affect movement, balance and coordination. There are numerous causes of ataxia, either due to an acute injury or infection, or a chronic degenerative process.

There are different types of Ataxia:

  • Spinocerebellar Ataxia
  • Episodic Ataxia
  • Friedreich’s Ataxia
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia
  • Mitochondrial Ataxia
  • Multiple System Atrophy – Cerebellar type (MSA-C)
Ataxia can affect a person’s speech, swallowing and thinking (cognition).


Dysphagia (swallowing difficulty) is a common symptom in Ataxia. Signs and symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Coughing or choking when eating or drinking
  • Food or fluid remaining in the mouth after meals
  • Poor lip closure
  • Food or fluid spilling from the mouth
  • Persistent drooling of saliva
  • A sensation that food is stuck in throat or chest
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Wet or ‘gurgly’ sounding voice when eating or drinking
  • Being unable to chew food properly
  • Difficulty coordinating breathing and swallowing
  • Changes in eating habits — for instance, avoidance or over-consumption of certain foods/drinks
  • Recurrent chest infections or pneumonia

Swallowing can become severely compromised and food/liquid can get into the lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia. Therefore, it is important to note any changes to swallowing as early as possible.

Speech Pathologists at iBrain specialise in providing assessment and management of dysphagia. We can help intervene early and preserve both health and quality of life.


In many cases of ataxias, speech difficulties have been documented as a common outcome of disease progression, typically manifesting in dysarthria (slurred speech). Depending on the exact type of ataxia, symptoms can range from vocal instability, reduced rate of speech, imprecise articulation to reduced coordination with breathing & talking. Dysarthria affects a person’s ability to communicate, to participate in society and reduces quality of life.

At iBrain, we specialise in providing Neurological Speech Pathology for people with Ataxia. These may include:

  • Voice training
  • Clear speech strategies
  • Oro-motor exercises
  • Exercises that strengthen or relax the muscles controlling the vocal cords and improve breathing
  • Prescribing communication aids and communication devices

Supporting Communication

Some people with Ataxia can also experience cognitive-communication difficulties due to changes to thinking (cognition). We can evaluate and treat the following disorders that may happen: 

  • Word finding difficulty.
  • Knowing what you want to say but having difficulty expressing it.
  • Changes to memory, attention, organising thoughts, planning, or problem solving.
  • Social communication (e.g. problems communicating for social purposes, like greetings or asking questions, or not understanding the audience that can result in such things as acting socially inappropriate in a group setting).

Comprehensive treatment for Ataxia

Our team has extensive experience in providing Neurological Speech Pathology to people with different types of Ataxia, whether the goal is to speak more clearly, control saliva, manage dysphagia, or to explore assistive technology if necessary.

Successful management can build confidence and motivation when facing the challenges of living with Ataxia!

Phone: 1800 719 867
Email: info@ibrain.net.au