More than 10 million people all over the world currently live with Parkinson’s disease. If you or someone you love is part of this group, you know how difficult it can be, especially when you begin to struggle with your speech and swallowing abilities.
While speech and swallowing problems are common among people with Parkinson’s disease, they don’t have to diminish your quality of life. There is a lot you can do to minimize them, including practicing Parkinson’s speech therapy exercises on a regular basis.
Explained below are some highly effective exercises that you or your loved one can try out today.
Benefits of Speech Therapy
Besides improving their ability to speak clearly, speech therapy provides a number of other benefits for people who struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Some of the greatest benefits include:
- Improved voice projection
- Improved swallowing ability
- Enhanced ability to socializewith family and friends
- Greater levels of independence
- Access to devices that improve communication in all stages of the disease
The access to communication devices (including voice amplifiers and picture communication boards) is especially beneficial. These tools help people who are in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s continue to be understood and enjoy a high quality of life.
Parkinson’s Speech Therapy Exercises
The following speech therapy exercises are specifically designed to help people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.
This exercise might seem simple, but deep breathing is essential for keeping your lungs and diaphragm healthy and strong. This, in turn, helps you maintain your ability to project your voice.
Deep breathing is a great warm-up to get your ready for other, more advanced exercises.
To do this exercise, simply start by sitting or standing up straight. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Breathe in until you feel your ribs and abdomen start to expand.
When you’ve inhaled as much as you can, exhale slowly through your mouth (think about blowing out a candle).
Take several deep, full breaths (at least ten) before moving on to the next exercise.
This is a great exercise that will help you maintain your pronunciation and projection abilities.
Start by taking a deep breath in. Then, push out from your diaphragm while making an “ah” sound. Try to extend this sound for at least 15 seconds.
Take another deep breath and push out from your diaphragm while repeating an “oh” sound for 15 seconds. Do this again with both “oo” and “ee” sounds.
When you’ve done the exercise with each sound, you’re ready to move on and practice changing your pitch. Do this by alternating between the “oh” and “ee” sounds for 30 seconds.
Many people with Parkinson’s disease speak quietly without even realizing it. To work on your volume control, practice projecting your voice with the help of your diaphragm.
Take a deep breath in, then, name the days of the week as loudly as you can. Move on to the months of the year, the alphabet, and counting from one to twenty. Speak as loudly as you can during each exercise.
Sirening is another good exercise for improving your pronunciation and pitch control.
To do this exercise, take a deep breath in. Then, as you exhale, imitate the sound of a police siren by repeating the “ng” sound — like in the word sing. Continue to repeat the sound as you let your pitch and volume increase and decrease.
There are two types of laryngeal push-ups: adductory push-ups and abductory push-ups. These are great for strengthening your larynx (voice box) to help your pronunciation and volume control.
To do adductory laryngeal push-ups, take a deep breath in. Then, while exhaling, say the “uh” sound as quickly as you can. Keep the sound loud and sharp.
Try to extend your exhale for about 6-7 seconds while repeating the sound and do your best not to let the repetitions blur together.
To do abductor laryngeal push-ups, take a deep breath in. Then, as you exhale, say the “huh” sound as quickly as you can. Just like you did with the first exercise, extend your breath for 6-7 seconds and keep the sounds as loud and distinct as possible.
In addition to these specific speech therapy exercises, there are lots of other smaller ways that you can work on strengthening your voice while going about your daily life. Some simple exercises you can do throughout the day include:
- Reading road signs out loud as your drive or ride in the car
- Practice reading out loud each day — from books, newspapers, magazines, etc.
- Focus on tone and pitch while reading out loud
- Exaggerate your mouth movements and focus on the way your tongue and lips move when you speak
- Sing your favorite song regularly
- Practice taking deep, full breaths whenever you have a spare minute (this exercise is subtle enough that you can practice it anywhere!)
Many people also stop talking as much if they feel that they’re starting to get winded while speaking.
Don’t give up on yourself just because you’re noticing changes. Pause and take more breaths if needed, but don’t stop altogether. Remember, the only way you’ll improve is if you practice consistently.
Work with a Speech Therapist Today
The Parkinson’s speech therapy exercises outlined above are a great place to start if you feel that your speech skills (or your loved one’s speech skills) are starting to decline. But, you’ll see the greatest benefits if you also work with a trained speech therapist.
A speech therapist will help you make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly. They’ll also be able to prescribe specific exercises that are better tailored to your particular needs.
If you want to work with a speech therapist but aren’t able to get out of the house for therapy, don’t worry. At Gr8 Speech, we offer online speech therapy sessions. With our help, you can reap all the benefits of speech therapy without leaving your house.
Schedule a free consultation today to see if our program is right for you!