Lenora Edwards 5 min read

Speech Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease

Speech problems from Parkinson’s are complex. Parkinson’s speech therapy can help.

What is it like trying to speak for those who have Parkinson’s disease? And how can speech therapy for Parkinson’s disease help? An expert speech pathologist helps you to understand how we can create tailored treatment programs for those struggling with speech problems caused by Parkinson’s disease.
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The cause of Parkinson’s disease is related to the lack of dopamine being created in the brain.

 brain cells

This can happen when the brain cells stop producing a very specific chemical or neurotransmitter known as dopamine. Dopamine is really important because it’s responsible for our coordination of our movement. An additional challenge is that it’s also responsible for our feelings of feeling motivated and rewarded.

This is different than causes of dementia, or problems after stroke, but Parkinson’s can also have an impact on cognition, along with the physical problems.

Parkinson’s disease is a decline of the nervous system causing speech problems, among other issues.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive decline of the nervous system that impacts our muscles and our movement of our body.

Many don’t know that they’re having difficulty communicating – they think they’re shouting, but the listener hears something very different.

With individuals who have Parkinson’s disease, about 89% don’t know that they’re actually having difficulty communicating. Where they think that they might be shouting or they’re speaking really loudly, we as the listener are hearing something completely different.

Speech problems from Parkinson’s are caused by breath or articulation muscles.

Parkinson’s disease will cause speech problems because of the changes in the muscle movement. This can actually impact the ability to have that breath support to effectively communicate. It can actually change the vocal quality. So an individual might be more hoarse or might be more breathy.

Second, Parkinson’s will cause speech problems by impacting the articulators’ range of movement. When someone with Parkinson’s thinks they’re opening their mouth or communicating with movements of the mouth, their movement is much smaller, it’s much tighter.

These are similar to, but have different causations, than the speech problems from aphasia or apraxia.

Speech therapy for child and adult

The emotional toll of having speech problems from Parkinson’s is also challenging.

You as a listener might be asking them “I’m sorry, say that again,” or “I can’t hear you.”
And they as the speaker can become more frustrated because they feel like they’re repeating themselves. They also feel like they’re shouting or speaking loudly, but are still not being heard.

a man with a beard is thinking about something

Because the lack of dopamine also impacts our feelings of worth, motivation and reward, it’s very easy for that frustration to become anger, anxiety, depression or hopelessness. So it’s really important to be aware of these characteristics, but it’s also really important to receive treatment early on.

Speech disorders can progressively diminish quality of life for a person with PD. The earlier a person receives a baseline speech evaluation and speech therapy, the more likely he or she will be able to maintain communication skills as the disease progresses. Communication is a key element in quality of life and positive self-concept and confidence for people with PD. (From Parkinson’s Foundation)

There are two popular programs offering speech therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

The two most prevalent programs to help those with speech problems because of Parkinson’s disease are LSVT Loud, The Lee Silverman voice treatment LOUD, and also Speak Out! Both of these are incredibly well researched.

All of our Better Speech pathologists are able to be certified in these programs and techniques so that we can offer it to our clients in whole or in part.

LSVT Loud speech therapy program for Parkinson’s focuses more on actual articulation

  • This program is a bit more structured
  • Usually covered in four sessions at 60 minutes each week
  • Homework assignments for practice
  • Teaches clients to be loud and to communicate with projection.

Speak Out! speech therapy program for Parkinson’s focuses on the intent of communication.

  • This program has a little bit more flexibility
  • Usually covered in three sessions of 45 minutes each week
  • Homework assignments for practice
  • Focuses on the intent or reason for the communication

Both of these programs include homework assignments to practice outside, which is really fantastic when but then you get to also take those techniques, those tools, those things that you learn and implement them in your everyday life. That way you can then be more functional in your communication, and start to enjoy communicating with those around you.

In addition to that, there are also programs outside of that formal training, so that you get to be a part of a community where there are other people who are experiencing the similar things that you’re experiencing as you are a part of this now, Parkinson’s family.

By combining techniques and learning, we can give you as much knowledge, as much information and to help you in every way that we can. We tailor our treatment plans to fit your needs.

Best speech therapy for Parkinson’s disease may be a mix of approaches.

Whether you’re having difficulty with that breath support, we may recommend breathing exercises.

the man smiles

We may recommend changing your breathing pattern altogether and we will give you those tools and techniques to do so.

Maybe you are having difficulty actually getting those vocal cords to come together completely and consistently, so we may recommend vocal exercises and different techniques to try to help improve that vocal quality.

Or, if you’re having difficulty moving those articulators with that coordination and that strength and range of movement, we may recommend oral motor exercises.

We may recommend some of these, we may recommend a variety of these. Because what is ultimately important is how you communicate with their family and friends and those around you, so that you can better yourself and better your communication everywhere you go, any time you need.

As always, if you have questions, and would like to speak with a speech language pathologist, please reach out to us a Better Speech where we offer you a free consultation. We will do our very best to answer your questions and offer you more guidance as to how you can start working toward solving your speech problems, and start receiving speech therapy for Parkinson’s disease.