Parkinson’s disease can affect many different aspects of communication, including the ability to remember certain words, the way the voice sounds and how loud it is, and facial expressions. The effect of Parkinson’s disease on a person’s communication skills can be slight or significant, depending on how the disease progresses.
For some people, changes in speech and voice may be the first signs of Parkinson’s disease. Others may not be noticeably affected until they’ve had the condition for years. As Parkinson’s disease progresses, it can affect a person’s ability to engage in conversation.
A speech-language pathologist evaluates and analyzes these aspects of communication and their impact on a person’s social interactions and quality of life.
For people who are receiving inpatient rehabilitation, Rusk Rehabilitation offers a speech-language program that focuses on detecting and evaluating a speech disorder known as hypokinetic dysarthria, a common problem in people with Parkinson’s disease. This condition impairs a person’s ability to create the movements of the mouth and vocal cords needed to produce speech. Symptoms include difficulty articulating clearly, a hoarse or harsh sounding voice, and rapid bursts of speech.
Other problems, such as low volume, poor differentiation of the words, and rushed speech, are also treated during speech therapy.
The program also educates people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers and partners about hypokinetic dysarthria. Specialists teach people strategies for improving speech and maintaining the ability to speak clearly and be understood.
The initial speech-language treatment regimen is fairly intense and lasts approximately two months for most people. It often begins while a person is completing an inpatient stay at Rusk Rehabilitation and continues with a home care or private speech-language pathologist after the person returns home.
Some people may choose to complete their treatment at Rusk Rehabilitation through an outpatient program. Refresher courses and periodic reevaluation of a person’s ability to communicate effectively are integral parts of the speech-language pathology program.
Rusk Rehabilitation also offers people with Parkinson’s disease the ability to practice the techniques they’ve learned in a group of peers, which meets regularly at an NYU Langone facility.