A Nebraska program aims to safeguard speech in Parkinson's patients: BTN LiveBIG

A Nebraska program aims to safeguard speech in Parkinson's patients: BTN LiveBIG

Of the many maladies Parkinson’s Disease visits upon the body, alterations to speech seem to cut deepest in regards to one’s sense of self. Gradually speech can become quiet and monotone. Slurring, mumbling, trailing off, even stuttering can begin to interrupt patterns of communication. Coupled with weakening facial muscles, these symptoms can team to give off incorrect cues and mute emotion.

A full 90 percent of the people with Parkinson’s are at a high risk of losing their ability to speak, and the associated swallowing problems can lead to aspiration pneumonia resulting in 70 percent mortality rate, according to Samantha Elandary, founder and chief executive of the Parkinson Voice Project.

With funding from a Parkinson Voice Project 2019 Project Speak Out and Loud Crowd grant, the University of Nebraska’s Barkley Speech Language and Hearing Clinic has created a program of tailored speech therapy to combat these elements of the disease. The program is set to launch in Lincoln this fall.

Speaking with Nebraska Today, Kristy Weissling, associate professor of practice and coordinator of Barkley’s speech and language clinic, explained the dual benefits of the program.

“[It’s] an opportunity for our clinic to help serve the needs of individuals with Parkinson’s. It will also be an excellent learning opportunity for our speech-language pathology students.”

The program consists of one month of individual, thrice-weekly sessions, followed by monthly group maintenance session for the rest of the patient’s life. The grant supplies funds for the entirety of the projects first year, and for the training of three speech-language pathologists.

The therapy is founded on principles laid out by noted speech-language pathologist Daniel R. Boone. His work centered on training those with Parkinson’s to move speech from something almost automatic to an action of intent. The Parkinson Voice Project grants are given in memory of Boone and his work.

To learn more about the program and the Parkinson Voice Project, the only organization in the world focused exclusively on improving the speech and swallowing of those with Parkinson’s, check out the full Nebraska Today article here.

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