Prognosis for Parkinson’s: New Speech Therapy Produces Big ResultsJanuary 14, 2015
It was a twitch in his finger that led John Orcutt to go to the doctor's office. His diagnosis shocked and scared him.
"There was a certain amount of denial and fatalism that sets in because the common knowledge that Parkinson's ultimately a terminal disorder," said John Orcutt, a Parkinson's Disease patient.
Orcutt was diagnosed with Parkinson's five years ago. He had to take an early retirement in early 2014.
"Some of the challenges are in terms of dressing. That's what I notice the most, when I try to do shirt button. With the tremor in the hand, it makes it difficult to do that," said Orcutt.
Most recently Orcutt has noticed changes in his speech. Some research says about 90 percent of people with Parkinson's have speech problems.
"The actual physiology of how the vocal folds are moving changes, so that impacts how the sound is coming out, so people aren't able to get that nice, clear sound that they can communicate with because of weakness. They also have a perceptual component where they are not able to hear themselves correctly so they continue to get quieter and quieter," said Jeanmaire Ripke, MS,CCSLP, a speech language pathologist.
But speech language pathologists say there is hope. The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment trains patients to stimulate the muscles of the voice box and speech mechanism through exercises. Treatment is administered in four individual 60 minute sessions per week for four weeks.
"They rebuild musculature but they also change the plasticity of the brain. They are able to make new neural connections that are able to help them find a new normal and that helps them counteract the disease process. I've had individuals who don't really interact much go from that level to speaking in front of large groups of people. A lot of people report increases in confidence, the ability to return to social activities and to be able to participate in life," said Ripke.
Experts say early treatment is important to preserving as much function as possible. As for Orcutt, he says he takes the disease day by day with the help of his family and support groups.