The effect of drama classes on speech production in children with dysarthria: a survey of parental perceptions

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Background: Participating in performing arts activities that involve vocal activities such as group singing and drama classes can have psychosocial benefits including increased self-confidence (Barnish & Barran, 2020). In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the therapeutic benefits of such activities for adults with motor speech disorders. Group singing, for instance, improved health-related quality of life, mood, breathing and voice quality in adults with dysarthria due to Parkinson’s disease (e.g. Fogg-Rogers et al., 2016). Psychosocial benefits were also reported in children and young people with learning disabilities (LD), who participated in performing arts activities (e.g. Wu et al., 2020; Zyga et al., 2018). Losardo et al. (2019) offered drama classes to young people with LD, and reported measurable improvements in intelligibility, fluency and the ability to initiate social conversations. These changes were confirmed by parental reports.
Aim: The current study aimed to determine whether children with dysarthria due to physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy might also benefit from drama classes, and if so whether the benefits are psychosocial in nature or extend to improvements in speech production.
Methods: Parents were asked to complete an e-survey to report any changes they may have noticed in their children’s speech, communicative participation and social skills as a result of participating in drama classes offered by a small charity for children with dysarthria. The e-survey was designed and distributed via Qualtrics. Binary choice questions, Likert scale questions and open questions were used to collect information. Results were analysed using descriptive statistics.
Results: Six parents responded to the survey (50% response rate) and all responses were included in the analysis. Responses were provided for four girls and two boys, aged between 6-18 years, who attended sessions for 1-24 months. Children’s motor speech difficulties were reported as moderate (four children) or severe (two children).
Parents reported improvements in all areas investigated i.e. speech, communicative participation and social skills. In terms of speech, 5/6 parents agreed that their children produced more words in one breath; 4/6 parents also reported that their children’s voice was louder as well as more stable. In addition, 4/6 parents reported that family, friends and unfamiliar people found it easier to understand their child. Fewer parents noticed changes to nasality (2/6). Regarding communicative participation, parents reported remarkable improvements for seeking clarifications (4/6), listening to others (3/6) and willingness to share ideas (3/6). Moderate improvements were noticed in the children’s ability to maintain a conversation (4/6) and to express themselves (3/6). Five parents further reported that their children developed more self-confidence.
Conclusion: Improvements in all areas surveyed suggest that the children with dysarthria benefitted from participating in drama classes not just in terms of psychosocial development but also in terms of positive changes to speech production. Further studies are warranted to quantify the observed changes to speech using objective measures.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2022
Event8th International Conference on Speech Motor Control - Groningen, Netherlands
Duration: 24 Aug 202227 Aug 2022


Conference8th International Conference on Speech Motor Control
Internet address


  • drama education
  • speech production
  • dysarthria in children


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