April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Since April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we are pleased to announce that we have added the SPEAK OUT! ® speech therapy program to preserve the voices of individuals with Parkinson’s and related neurological disorders such as Essential Tremor, Lewy Body Dementia, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Multiple System Atrophy.

The early symptoms of a speech disorder associated with Parkinson’s are reduced volume, a hoarse vocal quality, frequent throat clearing and trailing off at the end of sentences. Since the muscles used for speaking are the same used for swallowing, early intervention is important to minimize future swallowing difficulties. Speaking and swallowing are highly-automatic behaviors. When we speak, we don’t think about taking air into our lungs, contracting our diaphragm, or moving our vocal folds, tongue or lips; it all happens automatically. Dopamine facilitates automatic movements, however in Parkinson’s; there is a considerable loss of dopamine. With less dopamine, automatic movements are disrupted, which can contribute to speech and swallowing difficulties. When we speak with intent or deliberation, we are using a system in the brain that is less dependent on dopamine. This is why people with Parkinson’s can improve their speaking abilities. As patients go through SPEAK OUT! ®, they not only learn to “speak with intent,” but they also learn to “live with intent.”

SPEAK OUT! ® typically consists of twelve individual speech therapy sessions conducted by one of our speech-language pathologists. Together, the patient and our speech-language pathologist work their way through a series of speech, voice, and cognitive exercises outlined in a comprehensive workbook provided to every patient from the Parkinson Voice Project (parkinsonvoiceproject.org). The primary goals of SPEAK OUT! ® are to strengthen the muscles used for speaking and swallowing and to teach patients how to speak with intent and deliberation. After completion of SPEAK OUT! ®, a 6 week follow-up appointment will be scheduled with our speech-language pathologist and refresher session will be scheduled every 3-6 months for maintenance.

In comparison to the LSVT LOUD ® speech therapy, SPEAK OUT! ® consists of 12 sessions instead of 16, exercises are organized in a complimentary workbook provided by the Parkinson Voice Project to assist with compliance at home, and SPEAK OUT! ® also addresses cognition.

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