It is important to see a speech language pathologist (SLP) with the right training and background to treat many of the common issues associated with Parkinson's and speech.
Before you hire a SLP, take a few practical steps to ensure that you find someone who is a good fit for your specific concerns. The tips below will help ensure that you have a productive, successful experience with voice therapy.
Consult Your Care Team
A good place to start is by asking your Parkinson’s neurologist. Ask if he or she can recommend a SLP with Parkinson’s experience. Additionally, your physical therapist, occupational therapist or other healthcare provider might be able to make a recommendation.
Check with Your Support Group
Do you attend a Parkinson’s support group or exercise class? Do you have friends living with Parkinson’s? Many people appreciate referrals from others experiencing symptoms and situations similar to their own. Ask around to see if others in your circle of friends and acquaintances use a SLP and have had good experiences. Inquire what your friends like (or don’t like) about the SLP they’ve worked with.
If your healthcare team does not have any recommendations and your personal network doesn’t yield any names, consider researching using the Internet. Search for specialized “speech-training programs for Parkinson's”.
LSVT® LOUD is a well-established speech language pathology program for Parkinson's. They have a “Clinician Finder" tool on their website that you can use to find SLPs who are certified in LSVT®LOUD near you. SPEAK OUT!® is a similar program from the Parkinson Voice Project in Texas, which also has a Clinician Finder tool that allows you to enter your ZIP code and find nearby SLPs who have gone through training to offer SPEAK OUT!®
SLPs who attend either of these programs will have additional expertise and training specific to speech and swallowing challenges that can come with Parkinson’s.
Before selecting a SLP, be sure to ask questions about their experience working with people with Parkinson’s.
How many people with Parkinson’s have you worked with over the past year or two?
Ideally, the provider will work with at least 10 or more people with Parkinson’s each year. A clinician at a large Parkinson's clinic is likely to work with dozens of people with Parkinson's.
Do you currently have anyone on your caseload with Parkinson’s?
While the answer is hopefully yes, it might not be so if you live in a remote area. Clinicians working with people who have Parkinson's typically continue to receive additional referrals from local doctors if they achieve good outcomes, so they will often have several individuals with Parkinson's in their caseload.