Speech-Language Pathology Services for Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease can affect many different aspects of communication, including speech production, vocal inflections and intensity, and facial expression-all of which are important parts of how we communicate. As Parkinson’s progresses, it can also affect a person’s ability to engage in the give and take of conversation, as well as their ability to use spoken language in different settings. The speech-language pathologist will evaluate and analyze all of these aspects of communication and their impact on the individual’s social interactions and quality of life.

The effect of Parkinson’s disease on a person’s communication skills can be slight or quite significant, depending on how the disease progresses. For some patients, changes in speech and voice may be the very first signs of Parkinson’s. Other patients’ speech may not be noticeably affected until they’ve had the disease for some time.

Rusk’s inpatient speech-language pathology intervention for people with Parkinson’s disease focuses on two main areas:

  • Detecting and evaluating the speech disorder known as hypokinetic dysarthria, a condition in which the patient’s ability to perform the movements needed for speech production is impaired. (The term “dysarthria” refers to speech disorders caused by changes in muscle function, and “hypokinetic” refers to reduced movement.) Symptoms include difficulty articulating clearly, a hoarse or harsh-sounding voice, and rapid bursts of speech.
  • Educating patients and their caregivers and partners about the condition of hyopkinetic dysarthria, and teaching them effective treatment methods that can be used to improve speech production and maintain the ability to speak clearly and understandably.

In most cases, the initial speech-language treatment regimen is fairly intense and lasts approximately two months. It often begins while the patient is an inpatient at Rusk, and then continues with a home-care or private speech-language pathologist once the patient has returned home. Some patients may also choose to complete their treatment at Rusk through an outpatient program. Refresher courses and periodic rechecks of the patient’s ability to communicate effectively are an integral part of any SLP Parkinson’s disease program as well.

Rusk’s Speech-Language Pathology Program also offers a free Parkinson’s speech-language group where patients can meet regularly at a Rusk facility to practice the techniques they’ve learned in a group setting. The group is open to all patients with Parkinson’s disease who are graduates of Rusk’s formal SLP treatment program. For further information about the Parkinson’s Communication Community Group, please call (212) 263-6025 or visit our support groups page.

For further information on Speech-Language Pathology, please visit the Speech-Language Pathology/Swallowing Department page .