Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that predominately affects dopamine-producing neurons (nerve cells) in a specific area of the brain called the substantia nigra. These neurons break down and no longer produce chemical “messengers” called dopamine. Dopamine sends signals to other nerve cells, and help with, for example, initiating speech and movement. Many people with Parkinson’s disease suffer from disorders of speech and voice. Cognitive skills and memory may also be impaired. These disorders are typically characterized by speech and voice that are monotonous, quiet, hoarse, and breathy. People with Parkinson’s disease also tend to give fewer non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and hand gestures. These disabilities increase as the disease progresses and may lead to serious problems with communication and swallowing.
Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease are referred for speech and language therapy to improve the intelligibility (clarity) of their speech, and primarily receive treatment for dysarthria (a speech disorder due to muscle weakness), articulation, voice, and resonance problems. They may need swallowing treatment. Specific treatment to address cognitive and memory skills may also be needed. Intensive voice treatment protocols continue to be effective in this population (Sapir, Ramig & Fox, 2011). LSVT LOUD is the gold standard of treatment for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. The clinician rendering treatment must be certified in LSVT LOUD.