Although it’s most widely known for causing issues with movement and coordination, Parkinson’s disease can also have impacts on speech and vocalization. If you have an older parent who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, then you might have some experience with this already. Or maybe you have recently received a diagnosis yourself, and are worried about the potential ramifications and what this will mean for you going forward. If you’re looking for a Washington DC speech therapy clinic to help mitigate the vocal issues related to Parkinson’s you’re in the right place. We’re District Speech, and today we want to help you understand the ways a speech therapist can help provide treatment for issues related to Parkinson’s disease. Keep reading to learn more. What Is Parkinson's Disease? Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder which is primarily known for affecting movement, causing tremors, stiffness, and leading to problems with balance and coordination, however it can also impact speech. Movement and coordination rely largely on production of dopamine in the brain. In individuals with Parkinson’s disease, the substantia nigra, which is the part of the brain which creates dopamine starts to die off, resulting in lower levels of brain dopamine. It’s a progressive disease, which means the symptoms will worsen over time. In rare cases, Parkinson’s disease can affect children, but the vast majority of people with Parkinson’s disease will seek out adult speech therapy treatments. What Causes Parkinson's Disease? Although the precise cause of Parkinson’s disease remains unknown, there are a number of factors which can lead someone to have a higher risk of developing it, both environmental and genetic. One factor involves proteins called Lewy bodies which doctors have found inside the brains of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. However, their role in the development of Parkinson’s is not known. In addition, low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain have been shown to have a connection to Parkinson’s. Other factors which lead to an increased risk of Parkinson’s include: \tAge - the vast majority of Parkinson’s cases develop between fifty and sixty years of age \tSex - men are much more likely than women to develop Parkinson’s \tGenetic history \tRace - the prevalence of Parkinson’s in white people is much higher than in Black or Asian individuals \tHistory of head injury \tExposure to environmental toxins Symptoms Of Parkinson's Disease The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are motor problems, which include: \tSlowed movement \tTremors/shaking \tPoor balance \tStiffness However, there are also other signs and symptoms, some of which are early onset signs of the disease developing, and others specifically related to speech. General Symptoms Some of the early onset signs which can show up before these develop are: \tCramped handwriting \tLoss of smell \tPoor posture \tConstipation Other signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can include secondary signs such as: \tDepression and anxiety \tPsychosis and hallucinations \tMemory problems \tBlank facial expressions \tFalling backwards \tGetting stuck while walking \tShuffling while walking \tFlakey white scales on the skin \tMemory problems \tVisual and spatial issues Speech Related Symptoms Some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease specifically related to speech and communication include: \tDysarthria (trouble speaking) \tDysphagia (trouble swallowing) \tVocal changes \tBreathy, hoarse speech \tMonotone speech \tPoor articulation \tMuffled speech How Can Speech Therapy For Parkinson's Disease Help? If you, or someone you care about, is experiencing speech issues related to Parkinson’s disease, a speech therapist can help to improve communication skills. Some strategies include: \tLee Silverman Voice Treatment - specialized training to help individuals with Parkinson’s disease amplify their voices \tVocal energy conservation techniques \tHelping to develop nonverbal communication skills \tGiving you exercises to help increase muscle strength \tPracticing movements to improve speech They may also recommend augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) options to help with communication, such as: \tVoice amplifiers \tNotebooks and language boards \tPalatal lift - a type of retainer \tComputers and other dedicated communication devices \tTTY telephone systems The bottom line is that there are a variety of methods available to assist people who are losing their ability to communicate due to Parkinson’s disease. Your speech therapist will work with you to determine the best strategies for you. Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today Are you in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, and want to learn strategies to help maintain your speech and communication as the condition progresses. Or maybe you have a parent or loved one with Parkinson’s, and you’d like to get them help to maintain their speech in order to better communicate with friends and family. We’re District Speech, and we can help. Our offices serve the Washington D.C. and Arlington Virginia areas. Contact your nearest District Speech office today to set up a consultation.