Richardson, Texas—A choir of people who have Parkinson’s Disease—and difficulty with speech—performed Andy Beck’s “A Hanukkah Wish” at their Holiday concert in Richardson, Texas. The Intentional Singers of the nonprofit Parkinson Voice Project selected the warm and festive song in honor of the Jewish Festival of Lights, which celebrates a miracle, one day’s worth of lamp oil that miraculously burned for eight days straight.
“There is a line in the song, ‘May the light shine through,’” commented Parkinson Voice Project Founder and CEO Samantha Elandary. “At Parkinson Voice Project, we celebrate each time the light shines through, each time someone whose voice has been diminished by Parkinson’s returns strong and clear and full of light. Our wish is that this performance will give hope to people with Parkinson’s and their families so they can reclaim their voices.”
Parkinson’s Disease affects more than 1 million Americans and is the second most prevalent brain disease in the United States. About 90 percent of people with Parkinson’s are likely to develop speech disorders. As the voice becomes weaker, swallowing becomes compromised. However, with specialized vocal exercises and learning to “speak with intent,” people with Parkinson’s can stay connected with their families and friends.
Regaining and retaining the strength of one’s voice is hard work for people with Parkinson’s, requiring individual speech therapy, weekly group sessions, and daily practice for the rest of their lives. Parkinson Voice Project has made it their mission to reach as many as they can with their SPEAK OUT!® speech therapy, which also includes singing. “Some of the singers in our choir—including the soloist—have been with our program for more than 12 years, and their voices are stronger than when they entered our program, even though they have Parkinson’s,” Elandary said.
Parkinson Voice Project provides its speech therapy and all of its programs for free and has not billed insurance since 2008. They rely instead on a pay-it-forward funding model. In addition to charitable donations from individuals and organizations, donations are accepted from those who receive SPEAK OUT! therapy to help pay for the next person. The organization has received a challenge this holiday season by one of their grateful patients: raise $1,000,000 by December 31st and receive an additional $500,000. They organization has already raise $740,000.
To learn more about or donate to Parkinson Voice, please visit the website at ParkinsonVoiceProject.org.
About Parkinson Voice Project
Parkinson Voice Project is a nonprofit speech therapy clinic specializing in the treatment of speech disorders related to Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s-Plus Syndromes. Parkinson Voice Project treats people with Parkinson’s in the clinic in Richardson, Texas and via online therapy and practice. The team has also trained more than 11,000 speech/language pathologists in the SPEAK OUT® program. Since 2008, the clinic has not charged for its services and relies on charitable gifts and pay-it-forward donations from program participants. Parkinson Voice Project maintains a score of 100 on CharityNavigator.org.
About SPEAK OUT!®
SPEAK OUT! was developed by Parkinson Voice Project and is based on principles of motor learning and teachings of the late Daniel R. Boone, Ph.D., CCC-SLP. In the 1950s, Boone recognized individuals with Parkinson’s could improve their communication by “speaking with intent.” Later Parkinson’s research showed that 80 percent of a Parkinson’s patient’s dopamine production has been lost by the time the patient displays motor symptoms of the syndrome. Dopamine is a key ingredient in the neural pathway transmissions of the autonomic or automatic nervous system, which includes speech. The key, therefore, Elandary emphasizes, is to train Parkinson’s patients to shift speech from the automatic (Extrapyramidal) nervous system to the intentional (Pyramidal) nervous system. This “speaking with intent” is a cornerstone of the SPEAK OUT! approach.
The SPEAK OUT! program involves interlocking components, including education for both the patient and family, individual speech therapy, weekly speech and singing sessions, , daily practice, a personal workbook, and periodic evaluations. People with Parkinson’s who adhere to the SPEAK OUT! protocol can regain and retain their speaking abilities and minimize future swallowing complications.