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Parkinson's Disease and Speech Therapy

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Dysarthria (difficulty speaking) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) can be severely limiting symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Both can be helped by seeing a speech pathologist or speech therapist.

In particular, the Lee Silverman Voice Therapy Program, has demonstrated significant value for people with Parkinson's. Ask your doctor about a referral to a speech pathologist experienced in administering the Lee Silverman Voice Therapy program.

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How Can I Improve My Speech With Parkinson's Disease?

Speech-language pathologists can help people with Parkinson's disease maintain as many communication skills as possible. They also teach techniques that conserve energy, including non-verbal communication skills. Speech-language pathologists are also available to:

  • Recommend appropriate communication technologies that will help with daily activities.
  • Treat all types of speech, language, and communication problems.
  • Evaluate swallowing function and recommend changes as necessary.

How Can I Maintain and Enhance My Speech?

  1. Choose an environment with reduced noise. It can be tiring to try to "talk over" the television or radio.
  2. Speak slowly.
  3. Be certain your listener can see your face. Look at the person while you are talking. A well-lit room enhances face-to-face conversation, increasing understanding.
  4. Use short phrases. Say one or two words or syllables per breath.
  5. Over-articulate your speech by prolonging the vowels and exaggerating the consonants.
  6. Choose a comfortable posture and position that provide support during long and stressful conversations.
  7. Be aware that exercises intended to strengthen weakening muscles may be counter-productive. Always ask your speech therapist which exercises are right for you.
  8. Plan periods of vocal rest before planned conversations or phone calls. Know that fatigue significantly affects your speaking ability. Techniques that work in the morning may not work later in the day.
  9. If you are soft spoken and your voice has become low, consider using an amplifier.
  10. If some people have difficulty understanding you, the following strategies may help:
  • If you are able to write without difficulty, always carry a paper and pen as a backup so you can write down what you are trying to say.
  • If writing is difficult, use an alphabet board to point or scan to the first letter of the words that are spoken.
  • Spell words out loud or on an alphabet board if they are not understood.
  • Establish the topic before speaking.
  • Use telegraphic speech. Leave out unnecessary words to communicate the meaning of the topic.
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