With Grant to Andrews University, Parkinson Voice Project Expands Reach

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by Mary Chapman |

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Widening efforts to give Parkinson’s disease patients access to high-quality speech therapy, the Parkinson Voice Project (PVP) has named the Andrews University School of Communication Sciences & Disorders (SCSD) a recipient of this year’s SPEAK OUT! & LOUD Crowd Grant Program.

As is the case with all awardees, the grant will provide complimentary training and supplies for Andrews’ speech-language pathologists and graduate students. The school is in Berrien Springs, Michigan, near the town of Michiana.

The project is vital because up to 90% of Parkinson’s patients are at high risk of losing their ability to speak, and care is not always readily available, Samantha Elandary said in a press release. Elandary is Parkinson Voice Project’s founder and chief executive officer. Among that at-risk population, aspiration pneumonia caused by swallowing issues accounts for a 70% mortality rate.

“Awarding these grants has substantially increased access to quality speech treatment to those living with Parkinson’s,” Elandary said.

The number of this year’s recipients — 149, including five international — marks a 62% increase over 2018, the program’s first year. Some also get funding to offset group speech therapy costs. Grant recipients include university speech therapy clinics, non-profit Parkinson’s organizations, hospitals and private practices.

The non-profit PVP aims to preserve the voices of those with Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders through intensive speech therapy, continued support, research, education, and community awareness. It seeks to team  with other speech language pathologists to replicate its SPEAK OUT! and LOUD Crowd therapy programs globally.

Combining speech, voice, and cognitive exercises, SPEAK OUT! addresses the motor speech issues related to Parkinson’s. LOUD Crowd is a voice maintenance program consisting of speech therapy groups and a singing portion to foster voice strength retention.

Using the two-part, trademarked program, the patient and a speech language pathologist go through a series of speech, voice and cognitive exercises outlined in a specialized workbook. Emphasizing “speaking with intent,” the program changes speech from an automatic function to a deliberate act. Since speech muscles also are used for swallowing, therapy is beneficial in that way.

To achieve its mission of making speech treatment broadly available, PVP saw a need to support speech pathologists. These professionals, the organization has said, receive little insurance reimbursement for services, and often have difficulty securing funding from employers for specialized training and supplies. So far, PVP has trained more than 1,600 pathologists nationwide, as well as therapists in nine countries.

The grant program, named for the late Parkinson’s speech expert Daniel R. Boone, PhD, was crafted to give pathologists the knowledge and tools needed to help the Parkinson’s community.

”The ultimate goal and my hope for this program is that Michiana-area people with Parkinson’s will be able to use the intensive speech therapy and resources available to us through the Parkinson Voice Project grant to preserve and maintain their vocal quality and swallowing abilities,” said Jenica Joseph, assistant professor of speech-language pathology at Andrews.

”I want them to feel confident when speaking and be able to maintain the joy that comes with communicating, socializing and eating,” she said.

For more information about PVP services available at Andrews University, readers may email this address.

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