Drills and Activities: Maintaining Speech Health and Cognition after Parkinsons Diagnosis

Drills and Activities: Maintaining Speech Health and Cognition after Parkinsons Diagnosis

A Parkinson’s diagnosis can make you feel overwhelmed and even hopeless. But with early intervention, it is possible to slow speech and cognition issues.

If you or someone you love has Parkinson’s Disease a speech therapist or pathologist can delay or reduce the severity of symptoms. Along with those professionals, there are activities and drills that can be done at home.

Keep reading for a few of the most effective activities to improve speech and overall cognition for Parkinson’s patients.

How Parkinson’s Disease Effects Speech and Cognition

People with Parkinson’s may experience dysarthria (difficulty speaking) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). These symptoms can make it hard to communicate clearly with others and can make it challenging to eat solid foods.

Along with these symptoms, people with Parkinson’s have a difficult time with memory and cognition. They may feel distracted, unfocused, or have trouble remembering recent or past events.

These symptoms can challenge a person’s ability to live independently. They may not be able to socialize in the same way, and overall have difficulty maintaining the same quality of life.

But there is hope! The techniques and strategies below are designed to help people with the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

The Lee Silverman Voice Technique (LSVT)

Lee Silverman voice technique (LSVT) is a technique used by established speech pathologists in the field of Parkinson’s. It is intended to improve speech health and understandability to others.

The treatment focuses the individual on the volume of their voice when speaking. By speaking at a louder than normal volume, it can enable others to better understand each word or phrase.

It can take a few weeks to practice this technique, but the results may last up to a few years.

Non-Verbal Communication Techniques

When speech becomes impaired, an individual can rely on non-verbal cues to communicate with others. Non-verbal communication can be gestures, facial expressions, or written messages.

Learning to use non-verbal communication can replace or supplement verbal communication. It can reduce overall frustration and anxiety when trying to convey thoughts or feelings to those around you. 

By working with close friends and family to create specific non-verbal cues for common situations, the person with Parkinson’s can quickly and effortlessly get their point across. 

Devices to Assist with Non-Verbal Communication

There are also devices and technology to assist people with Parkinson’s with their ability to express themselves.

First, there is a palatal life which is similar to a retainer. It can lift the soft palate of the mouth and prevent air from releasing through the nose. This improves the overall quality of a person’s speech.

A personal amplifier is another useful tool. This device makes a person’s voice louder without having to speak at a higher volume. 

A teletypewriter (TTY) telephone relay system allows a user to type anything they wish to speak. Then, that speech is read aloud by an automated operator. There are also computer programs that use voice synthesizers to translate text to voice. 

If price or ease of use are your concerns, you can always use a simple notebook and pen or language board for communication. Keep in mind that individuals with Parkinson’s often lose dexterity, so writing with a pen or pencil can also be a challenge.

Working with a Professional

If you or someone you care about is struggling with speech, you may want to seek out professional help. An expert speech pathologist will work closely with the individual using researched techniques designed for those with Parkinson’s.

A professional will have all the tools and patience required to help you or your loved one improve their speech and other communication techniques. It can empower them and improve their day-to-day life.

Controlling Your Environment

While all of these are valid strategies to help with the symptoms of Parkinson’s, there are other things you can do to facilitate success for a person with Parkinson’s.

For example, loud, crowded spaces should be avoided. If a person is struggling with speech, a quieter setting will be more comfortable for them and make them easier to understand.

A well-lit room will make it easier to see facial expressions and potentially read lips. So, if you can have a conversation in a bright room or outdoors that is preferred to a dimly lit space.

Create Task Sequencing

Now that we have discussed some of the speech-related activities and tips, let’s talk about some of the strategies that assist with cognitive impairment.

The first is task sequencing. This is the process of taking one task, for example making a sandwich, and then breaking it down into many smaller tasks on a list.

Write a list of all the interim steps – take mayonnaise from the fridge, take plate from cabinet, etc. Then, ask the person to complete the larger task using the list.

Play a Word Association Game

Word association is a cognitive task that requires matching words that are related to one another. For example, farmer and cattle or peanut butter and jelly. But you would not match farmer and jelly or cattle and peanut butter.

Making a list yourself or finding a word association game online can be a fun way to stimulate a person’s cognitive reasoning. 

You can also use word searches or word matching games to challenge a person’s brain in a safe and healthy way.

Act Now

The sooner you start to use these strategies, the better. Parkinson’s Disease can be debilitating, but you can lengthen high-quality life with just a few of these tools.

So if someone you care about is struggling, you can suggest these activities or refer them to a service that is designed to help with speech or cognition.

If you have serious concerns about Parkinson’s symptoms, you should contact a medical professional.

If you want to learn more about hiring a speech expert, contact us today and we can help answer any questions you may have.  


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