Over the past month, we’ve touched on two different awareness campaigns: April is both Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month and World Autism Awareness Month. Today, we’ll discuss another devastating disease being highlighted by a national awareness campaign: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gherig’s Disease. This disease is near and dear to the heart of our founder and president, Jayne Latz. She has lost a total of five aunts and uncles to this devastating disease. Every year her family participates in the ALS Walk which will take place this Saturday, May 4, in New York City.
ALS is a progressive disease that affects the parts of the nervous system that control movement. As ALS progresses, it causes neurons in both the brain and spinal cord to die, disrupting the signals that control muscular movement. Because this includes the muscles that control speech and swallowing, speech therapy is a typical part of ALS treatment.
A person with ALS will often notice disruptions in speech early in the course of the disease. Vocal quality is often impacted. The voice will often become nasal (sounding as though the person is “talking through their nose”). A decrease in volume or breathy vocal quality are also common, as the muscles that provide breath support and the muscles that control the vocal folds are affected. Speech clarity is affected too, leaving slurred or unintelligible speech. A speech-language pathologist can help to devise strategies that help improve speech and communication by compensating for these losses. In the later stages of the disease, a speech therapist can also help a person with ALS learn to use an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device, such as a speech-producing computer, to help them communicate. In addition to speech difficulties, problems with chewing and swallowing are also hallmarks of ALS. A speech-language pathologist is often involved in care, determining what food texture is safest and easiest at different points in the disease’s progression, and providing education for patients and caregivers on safe swallowing strategies.
Each year, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association uses the month of May to raise public awareness of this disease. If you are interested in supporting our president’s family as they walk on May 4th, please donate to “Team Levine.” Check out this link, which gives day-by-day suggestions for how you can help raise awareness and join in the fight against ALS: http://web.alsa.org/site/PageNavigator/AAM_calendar.html
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!