Tips and Tricks

We all rely on speaking and hearing speech throughout the day, both directly from friends, family and other people and also electronically through the TV and radio. People with MS talk about getting “words muddled up”, or that “words come out wrong”, or “I talk but my mouth won’t make the words”. It can be very disturbing to discover that your usually effortless communication has become less reliable. Difficulties can feel very public. However, the good news is that most people with MS do not experience major language difficulties. Language problems tend to be at the level of irritation and embarrassment, rather than a major handicap. They are much less obvious to those around you, than they are to you.

Other Important Influences

Professional Help

There are many underlying reasons that can result in language difficulties. Your health professional will probably want to investigate exactly where the weaknesses are in your language, to develop effective management strategies with you.

It is likely that a speech and language therapist will be able to help you if:

It is likely that a psychologist will be able to help you if you find it hard to:

MS Trust Publications

Cognition in the A-Z of MS

This A-Z entry describes the range of cognitive problems that can occur with MS difficulties with short-term memory, concentration, verbal fluency - and discusses ways to approach managing the various problems.

More general information about MS

Making Sense of MS

If you've just been diagnosed, this small postcard-sized booklet is a good place to start learning about MS. It provides a brief introduction to multiple sclerosis and answers the questions most commonly asked after diagnosis.

At work with MS

The resource considers some of the ways in which MS might affect work, the protection afforded under the Equality Act and what adjustments can be made for a successful working life with MS.

MS and me

A self-management guide to living with MS. Looks at setting goals, problem solving and healthy living, explores how to better understand your symptoms and how working with health professionals can help you make decisions and treatment choices.

Living with fatigue

Fatigue is one of the commonest symptoms of MS and can have a major impact on daily life. Living With Fatigue was written in conjunction with an MS specialist occupational therapist and illustrated with comments by people with MS who know what it is like to live with the symptom.

Open Door

Quarterly newsletter that contains articles news and research relevant to people living with MS and their families.

Involving Family and Friends

If you talk to your family and friends about your difficulties with words it is likely that they will not have noticed that you are experiencing anything unusual. They may well seek to reassure you that they have the same problems. In some ways this should reassure you, because it shows that your slips have not been noticed. However, if you feel that the slips and hitches in your language are occurring more than they should, you could let you family and friends know. You could tell them exactly the kind of problems you are having. You could give examples of when something was hard to say. If you find remembering people’s names hard, a family member or friend could help you on a social occasion. It may be that finding the right word has become a fairly frequent challenge for you. If so, you may wish to amend your work duties to reduce the number of presentations, for example. If your workmates understand what is happening, they are more able to help.


Cognitive difficulties

The primary language disorders which are common in other neurological conditions are very rare in MS. So-called “higher level” language skills, such as comprehending complex verbal information, may be compromised in some people with MS. Although words and language skills are probably intact, reaching them and organising them on demand may not be reliable. Many people with MS do experience difficulties finding the right word at times (possibly due to poor attention or fatigue). Even though the word might be safely stored in the brain and well known, locating it can be difficult (“access disorder” mediated by executive dysfunction). Taking in a lot of spoken information may also be hard due to slowed information processing. Asking people to speak more slowly is likely to help.

Further Reading

Barwood CH, Murdoch BE. Language abilities of patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis: A preliminary group and case investigation. Int J Speech Lang Pathol. 2013 Feb 4.

Joly H, Cohen M, Lebrun C. Demonstration of a lexical access deficit in relapsing-remitting and secondary progressive forms of multiple sclerosis. Rev Neurol (Paris). 2014 Aug-Sep;170(8-9):527-30.

Renauld S, Mohamed-Saïd L, Macoir J. Language disorders in multiple sclerosis: A systematic review. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2016 Nov;10:103-111.


One rehabilitation study improved naming.

Gich J, Freixanet J, García R, Vilanova JC, Genís D, Silva Y, Montalban X, Ramió-Torrentà L. A randomized, controlled, single-blind, 6-month pilot study to evaluate the efficacy of MS-Line!: a cognitive rehabilitation programme for patients with multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler. 2015 Sep;21(10):1332-43.

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