Speech therapy makes Parkinson's patients heard again

LSVT program gives Parkinson's patients new freedom.

Parkinson's Disease is a disorder of the central nervous system affecting movement, but it also affects the way you speak.

Speaking is the number one way that people communicate. Parkinson's Disease causes a number of problems regarding speech, the most significant being a softening of the voice.

"Some individuals with Parkinson's," says James Olson, speech therapist at Mercy Medical Center, "They think they are talking too loud, so as things progress, they get softer and softer and softer. And any time they try to speak louder, they think to them it's a shout."

In order to combat this problem, speech therapists across the country, like Olson, utilize a therapy program to improve the communication skills of those with Parkinson's Disease.

The program is called LSVT Loud. LSVT translates to Lee Silverman Voice Treatment. The "loud" aspect comes from patients consciously making efforts to speak louder than what they think they sound like.

"Our treatment tasks that we do daily, they [the patients] then do during session one to sixteen at night," says Olson. "The days we don't have therapy, they do twice a day. Then they follow through and do the same thing afterwords, indefinitely they just keep doing it."

From day one of treatment, patients repeat the same voice exercises, and speech therapists say 90% of patients improve from pre- to post-treatment, with 80% of patients maintaining improvements for 12 to 24 months afterwards.

Olson feels he makes a difference by helping his patients make their voices heard again.

"They can have a great quality of life and be able to do things without having to repeat themselves over and over again, and that's very empowering to them. They can get those things back!" says Olson.

For more information about Mercy Medical Center's Speech Therapy program, you can visit their website here.

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