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Speech, physiotherapy and occupational therapy for Parkinson’s disease

As well as medicines to help reduce Parkinson's disease symptoms, speech therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy may be offered.

These are called supportive therapies and may also help with symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Learn more.

Parkinson's disease: Speech therapy

Dysarthria (difficulty speaking) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) can both be severely limiting symptoms of Parkinson's disease, but they can be helped by seeing a speech therapist.

How can I improve my speech?

Speech and language therapists can help people with Parkinson's disease maintain as many communication skills as possible. They also teach techniques that conserve energy, including non-verbal communication skills. Speech-language therapists are also available to:

  • Recommend appropriate communication technologies that will help with daily activities.
  • Treat all types of speech, language, and communication problems.
  • Evaluate swallowing function and recommend changes as necessary.

How can I maintain and enhance my speech?

  • Choose an environment with reduced noise. It can be terribly tiring constantly trying to "talk over" the television or radio.
  • Speak slowly.
  • Make sure your listener can see your face. Look at the person while you are talking. A well-lit room enhances face-to-face conversation and increased understanding.
  • Use short phrases. Say one or two words or syllables per breath.
  • Over-articulate your speech by prolonging the vowels and exaggerating the consonants.
  • Choose a comfortable posture and position that provide support during long and stressful conversations.
  • Be aware that exercises intended to strengthen weakening muscles may be counter-productive. Always ask your speech-language therapists which exercises are right for you.
  • Plan your day so you can have vocal rest before conversations or phone calls that you know you have to make. Know that fatigue significantly affects your speaking ability. Techniques that work in the morning may not work later in the day.
  • If you are softly spoken and your voice has become low, consider using an amplifier.

If some people have difficulty understanding you, the following strategies may help:

  • If you are able to write without difficulty, always carry a paper and pen as a backup so you can write down what you are trying to say.
  • If writing is difficult, use an alphabet board to point or scan to the first letter of the words that are spoken.
  • Spell words out loud or on an alphabet board if they are not understood.
  • Establish the topic before speaking.
  • Use telegraphic speech. Leave out unnecessary words to communicate the meaning of the topic.

What is non-verbal communication?

Non-verbal communication, also called augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), is a method of communicating without spoken words.
When communication needs cannot be met through speech, the following techniques can help:

  • Make the best use out of what speaking ability is left.
  • Use expressions and gestures to communicate.

Non-verbal communication can help people with speech difficulties actually speak better by:

  • Reducing the frustration and stress of being unable to communicate.
  • Alleviating the pressure to speak.
  • Allowing the person to be more relaxed and come across in a more understandable manner.

WebMD Medical Reference

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