Did you know that currently 1 million people in the United States are living with Parkinson’s Disease? Each year, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation declares April Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month in an attempt to raise public awareness of this devastating disease. In support of the PDF’s awareness campaign, this week we’ll talk about what Parkinson’s Disease is, how it affects communication, and how you can help raise awareness.
What is Parkinson’s Disease? Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological disorder. The disease causes cell death in a specific part of the brain that controls movement. Parkinson’s causes tremors, slow movement, stiffness, and a loss of balance and coordination. As the disease progresses, disturbances in mood, cognition, and behavior may appear as well.
How does Parkinson’s Disease affect communication? The motor disabilities that accompany Parkinson’s Disease can affect the way a person speaks. Speech may become slurred or unintelligible as the disease progresses. A loss of vocal volume is also common (a hallmark of those with Parkinson’s)—a person with Parkinson’s will often develop an abnormally quiet voice, making it difficult to communicate effectively. With decreased breath support comes what is known as “fast rushes of speech” as the individual rushes to say what they need to say. This often causes speech that is unclear. In addition to voice and speech problems, a person with Parkinson’s disease may also have difficulty swallowing, as they lose coordination in the muscles of the mouth and throat. A speech-language pathologist can help with each of these issues, providing techniques to improve speech clarity, increase breath support for stronger vocal volume, and teaching compensatory strategies to improve safety in swallowing.
What can you do to help? The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation has provided an on-line toolkit to help get you started raising awareness for Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. Check it out at http://www.pdf.org/parkinson_awareness
Has Parkinson’s Disease affected your life or the life of someone you love? What challenges have you faced and how have you worked through them? Share your story in our comments section below.
For information on our New York based Speech-Language Pathology services, please call Speech Associates of New York today at (212) 308-7725 or visit our website at www.speechassociatesofny.com and find out how our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists can help you communicate your best!
Speech Associates of New York