Speech, swallowing and Parkinson’s
Communication involves both verbal (speech) and non-verbal skills (facial expression, body language and writing). Parkinson’s has the potential to cause voice changes in volume, strength, and clarity; reduce facial expression (flat-affect); and also affect handwriting legibility. These all pose tremendous impact on one’s communication effectiveness and social participation.
Dysarthria (difficulty speaking) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) can be quite severe non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Both can be helped by seeing a speech pathologist, who will provide assessment and intervention for speech and swallowing difficulties.
What is a Speech Pathologist?
Speech Pathologists are university trained Allied Health professionals who study, diagnose and treat communication disorders, including difficulties with speech, language, fluency and voice.
They work with people who have difficulty communicating or swallowing food and drink safely because of different diagnoses, e.g. stroke, brain injuries, and neurological disorders such as dementia, Parkinson’s.
Do I need a referral to see a Speech Pathologist?
Generally, you do not need a referral to see a speech pathologist. You might need a referral from a GP if you would like to access funding sources e.g. Chronic Disease management program, NDIS, My Aged Care, etc.
What happens in a Speech Pathology session?
Speech pathologists explore your communication and/or swallowing difficulties through an initial assessment. Then they will suggest evidence-based interventions for your difficulties.
What does Speech Pathology intervention look like?
According to your individual needs, speech pathologists may prescribe a therapy programme to support your communication/ swallowing difficulties.
Therapy programmes often aim to help you regain or maintain your communication/ swallowing function.
Interventions may involve:
- Problem-solving, memory, and organization, and other activities geared at improving cognitive communication
- Communication strategies to support social communication
- Breathing and voicing techniques to improve efficiency in the use of voice
- Exercises to strengthen oral muscles
- Modified diet to improve safety and efficiency of swallow
Should I see a Speech Pathologist?
Below is a general list of difficulties that warrant Speech Pathology evaluation:
- Do people often ask you to repeat because of the clarity of your speech?
- Do you find it hard to understand others, or express your thoughts?
- Does your voice sound soft, hoarse, scratchy, or breathy?
- Do you cough when you eat or drink or on saliva, or try to avoid certain foods because of swallowing difficulties?
Download our Communication and Parkinson’s factsheet for more information.