Speech therapy includes the rehabilitation and habilitation of speech/language skills, cognition, hearing loss, and swallowing. Specific areas addressed by a speech pathologist can include production of speech sounds (articulation, apraxia, dysarthria), vocal quality, cognition (attention, memory, problem-solving), executive functioning (planning, organizing, speed of thought), aphasia, feeding and swallowing, alternative communication devices, social communication, stuttering and Parkinson’s disease.

Your speech therapist will tailor a program to meet the needs of each individual based on his/her specific strengths and weaknesses.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) refers to any form of communication that improves, supports or replaces speech and writing. AAC communication includes electronic and non-electronic communication aids.  AAC systems can be as simple as a set of pictures, or as high tech as electronic speech devices. AAC also includes strategies children and families can use together.

The VitalStim® Therapy System is a modality to traditional exercise that combines the power of electrical stimulation with the benefits of swallowing exercises. Combining VitalStim® and traditional therapy allows clinicians to help accelerate strengthening, restore function, and help the brain remap the swallow. Research supports the combination of these therapies to improve treatment outcomes.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic progressive disorder of the brain that affects people by inhibiting their ability to use their muscles normally.  This leads to tremors, rigidity, slower walking with shortened steps and an increased fall risk, poor posture which is typically accompanied by aches and pains, and difficulty speaking with appropriate volume or enunciating words. The team of occupational, physical and speech therapists at Perham Health have advanced training in treating patients with Parkinson’s disease utilizing the LSVT BIG & LOUD program.

The LSVT BIG program was developed to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve strength, balance, coordination, and energy.  It is a well-researched, international program that has shown to be effective in many cases to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease and improve quality of life through increased ability to walk, move, and return to favorite activities. People who participate in the BIG program will be provided with a list of daily home exercises, as well as guided through these exercises and other activities by a therapist in order to achieve their particular goals.  If there is something in particular a patient would like to work on, the therapist will break down the activity and work through it with them to improve the patient’s ability to complete that activity.

Parkinson’s disease may affect a patient’s speech as well, causing difficulty speaking at normal volumes due to weakened muscles, difficulty finding the right words, and difficulty articulating speech clearly. The LSVT LOUD program is an effective speech treatment designed to stimulate the muscles of the voice box and speech mechanisms through a systematic hierarchy of exercises to maximize speech intelligibility. Treatments have been shown to improve vocal loudness, intonation, and voice quality, with improvements maintained for up to two years after treatment. It is not simply training people to shout or yell; treatment uses loudness training to bring the voice to an improved healthy vocal loudness without straining.

Participants in the program come to therapy four days a week for four weeks.  Therapy sessions are typically 45-60 minutes in length.  Once the four weeks are completed, the patient will continue the exercises at home.  Parkinson’s disease causes progressive degeneration of the brain and thus limits a person more and more as they age.  For this reason, patients return to therapy every 6-12 months for a “check-up,” and if the patient has declined, therapy can resume.

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