ALS: Beyond the Ice Bucket

waterIf you’re like most people, the past three weeks you’ve seen your social media feeds taken over by a new viral trend: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Once you’ve been nominated to take the challenge, you have 24 hours to either dump a bucket of ice-cold water over your head and/or donate $100 to research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). People who accept the challenge typically create a video of themselves having the water dumped on them and nominate three more people to take the challenge. The ice bucket challenge went viral this summer, raising over ten million dollars for ALS research as of mid-April. The campaign has done an amazing job of raising awareness for this disease, making ALS a household term. But how much do you really know about ALS? Today CSS is throwing our support behind the ice bucket challenge to provide a little information about what ALS actually is and how it affects communication.

ALS is a neurological disease which attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement, motor neurons. In a healthy system, motor neurons in the brain transmit messages to motor neurons in the spinal cord which then send signals to muscles in the body. When a person has ALS, the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord degenerate. This means that the brain can no longer communicate with the body’s musculature. Since muscles are no longer able to function, they gradually weaken and waste away.

Communication is one of the many functions that are affected by ALS. As the muscles which control speech degenerate, volume and clarity decrease significantly. Some of the earlier symptoms are nasal speech (talking out of your nose) and difficulty maintaining breath support for longer sentences. Precision of speech sounds also declines. In the later stages of ALS, the ability to speak and vocalize is often lost completely. In addition to communication deficits, issues with chewing and swallowing are also common. A speech-language pathologist is typically included on an ALS patient’s care team to help them communicate to the best of their ability for as long as possible and provide strategies to patients and their caregivers to increase safety while eating.

Have you taken the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Share your video below and keep the momentum going!

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 and find out how our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists can help!


© 2014, Speech Associates of New York – All Rights Reserved


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