Parkinson Voice Project’s Founder, Samantha Elandary, was working in a Dallas hospital in the mid-1990s as a speech-language pathologist. While treating people with Parkinson’s, she recognized they made quick, remarkable progress in speech therapy, but they struggled to maintain the improvement. She had an idea…
What if people with Parkinson’s could receive ongoing speech therapy, encouragement, and support? Could they maintain their speech and swallowing, even though Parkinson’s is “progressive and degenerative?” She shared her thoughts with hospital administration, but Medicare and insurance would not reimburse this level of care.
In 1998, Samantha resigned from her hospital position and set out to develop a comprehensive speech therapy program for people with Parkinson’s and related movement disorders. She spent six years treating patients in her home. She provided individual speech therapy and created a maintenance program, “The LOUD Crowd,” which was made up of speech and singing groups. Her patients had fun performing songs and skits. They developed friendships. Elandary was fostering a sense of belongingness and camaraderie among her patients and their families. She and her husband hosted holiday parties and summer-backyard BBQs.
During this same time, Samantha studied Medicare rules, nonprofit management, and efficient business models. She was particularly interested in Jim Collins’ principles outlined in Good To Great. Collins emphasizes successful businesses must focus on their “Hedgehog Concept” – what they are passionate about; what they can do better than anyone else in the world; and what drives their economic engine.
In 2005, with the help of her generous patients, their families, and community supporters, Elandary founded “Texas Voice Project for Parkinson Disease,” a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
In 2008, the organization instituted a Pay It Forward funding model. Since that time, the clinic has not billed insurance or Medicare and has not charged for its speech therapy services. Patients receive all the treatment they need without the worry of insurance restrictions or financial limitations. Patients, families, and community supporters make donations to support the organization and to help future patients.
In 2010, Elandary and her team developed a highly effective individual speech treatment for Parkinson’s called “SPEAK OUT!®” This program was combined with Elandary’s “The LOUD Crowd” to help people with Parkinson’s regain and retain these skills.
In 2011, the organization’s name changed to “Parkinson Voice Project” when the Board of Directors recognized their speech therapy program could be replicated to help patients beyond Texas.
In 2012, Parkinson Voice Project began training other speech-language pathologists in their treatment protocol with the vision of making quality speech treatment accessible to people with Parkinson’s and related movement disorders worldwide. SPEAK OUT! is now available in seven different languages… and counting!
In March 2020, Parkinson Voice Project was forced to close its clinic and group program due to COVID-19. Elandary and her Board and staff were extremely worried about what would happen to their patients during the pandemic. Without consistent vocal exercise, speech and swallowing would diminish with Parkinson’s. In the same week as the “shut down,” Elandary began offering Online SPEAK OUT! Home Practice Sessions Monday thru Friday using Facebook LIVE. She and her clinical team quickly transitioned its speech therapy program to a telepractice and began providing SPEAK OUT! therapy online. Surprisingly, this act accelerated Parkinson Voice Project’s progress by an estimated ten years or more!
During the pandemic, Parkinson Voice Project discovered the true impact of online therapy. Patients who previously did not have access to quality speech treatment could now improve their speech and communication. This included patients who lived in rural areas, the homebound, those who could no longer drive, and those living in nursing care facilities. Suddenly, Parkinson Voice Project could treat any person with Parkinson’s who lived in Texas, and they could help patients across the globe keep up with their daily speech exercises.
In May 2022, Parkinson Voice Project launched its $20 Million Campaign To Reach America. This project will replicate Parkinson Voice Project’s ONLINE speech therapy program in 50 university speech therapy clinics across the United States (one in every state).
By 2023, Parkinson Voice Project was hosting their Online SPEAK OUT! Home Practice Sessions on their website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel with more than 3,000 participants each day.
Parkinson Voice Project will continue to work with INTENT until every person with Parkinson’s and related movement disorders has access to their SPEAK OUT! therapy program.
Hear Samantha share why she started Parkinson Voice Project in her own words in our 10th Anniversary video.