Parkinson’s disease is most commonly associated with tremors—a kind of involuntary shaking. But there’s a lot more to this debilitating movement disorder than just the characteristic tremors.
Parkinson’s disease can also make speech difficult, if not impossible. In fact, some 60 to 80 percent of Parkinson’s patients struggle with one or more of the following speech problems:
- Soft or monotone speech
- Rapid speech
- Slurred speech
- Word repetition
- Hesitation before speaking
Laura Trela, speech pathologist for the Scott & White Round Rock Physical Therapy Clinic, said that many Parkinson’s patients get tired of not being heard or understood, and always being asked to “speak up.” As a result, some of them just give up all together on verbal communication.
“Many of them just stop talking,” Trela said. “It really affects their quality of life.”
According to National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders, speech and voice problems are one of the most difficult aspects of Parkinson’s disease. The inability to communicate can leave many patients feeling isolated and disconnected.
Up until recent years, traditional speech therapy was largely unsuccessful with Parkinson’s patients. However, a relatively new technique, the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT), which was created specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease, has proven to be much more effective. In fact, more than 90 percent of Parkinson’s patients who undergo LSVT improve their ability to communicate.
Trela, who is certified in LSVT, said that the results of LSVT can be life-changing for Parkinson’s patients. She said that those who undergo LSVT often complete their 16 sessions not only speaking more loudly, clearly, and articulately, they are also much more animated and expressive.
“It’s like they’re a new person,” she said. “They’re much more confident.”
The LSVT program, which is a four-week program of intensive voice exercises, consists of 16 one-hour sessions (four times per week) with a certified LSVT speech professional. These sessions are supplemented by 10 to 15 minutes of daily voice exercises at home. During these sessions, patients learn to “think loud”—to consciously focus on increasing the volume and quality of their voices.
LSVT is just one part of the new interdisciplinary care program for Parkinson’s patients offered by Scott & White in Round Rock. This program brings together a team of individuals—from neurologists specializing in movement disorders, to speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and even social workers—to coordinate the care of each patient. One day a year, team members meet individually with the patient and then gather together to create a coordinated treatment plan.
“It’s really wonderful to get all that care at one time in one place,” Trela said.
For more information about LSVT and the Parkinson’s care team services, or to schedule an appointment, call 512-509-7603.