The Parkinson Society of Newfoundland, in partnership with Western Health, has been delivering a speech education program in the Western region since 2009 and the most recent one was held this fall. Throughout the program, participants learn how Parkinson’s disease can impact speaking, eating, swallowing and communication. The program is led by a Speech-Language Pathologist who provides strategies for participants to improve their speech, communication and swallowing behaviours in the group sessions.
“This in an excellent example of a partnership that brings great value to the community,” said Derek Staubitzer, Executive Director of the Parkinson Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. “We are always looking for opportunities to make the professional services of the Regional Health Authorities easily accessible to our members for focused, therapeutic sessions.”
Participants of the program each receive a private pre-assessment with the Speech-Language Pathologist. They then participate in six sessions that include presentations, practice activities and breaks to allow time for socializing and peer support. The participants also each have a private post assessment after completing of the program.
Helping clients with Parkinson’s disease learn strategies to help them communicate has been a rewarding experience for Speech-Language Pathologist Corinne Wiseman. “It has been my absolute privilege to facilitate these education sessions and deliver this program. It reminded me why I chose the profession of Speech-Language Pathology. It feels so rewarding to know I played a role in improving the quality of life of people I have been most fortunate to meet not only through these education sessions but over my career thus far,” said Corinne.
Shawn Cave was one of the participants in the program this fall and he found the sessions to be very helpful. “The breathing part (diaphragmatic breathing) has certainly helped me a lot in trying to get my words out. The program has made me more aware of how to be more careful and how to adjust to the swallowing changes. Now that people understand that people like me have trouble speaking, they will take the time to listen. I’m very grateful there is a program like this because it’s extremely helpful,” Shawn said
Another participant mentioned the sessions provided information that they wouldn’t have received from other health care providers. They felt if they had future issues with their voice, they would know they could see a Speech-Language Pathologist for help.
Throughout the program, the participants made connections with other people who are experiencing the same issues. “One of the best parts was seeing participants mingle and chat with one another during break time. That is when I got to observe that they were not only individuals experiencing life with Parkinson’s disease, they had a number of things in common that had nothing to do with Parkinson’s. These moments really helped to reinforce that Parkinson’s disease is something they have but it does not describe or define who they are as individuals,” said Corinne.
Corinne Wiseman, Speech-Language Pathologist
In addition to sessions like this speech education program, the Parkinson’s Society also offers a series of exercise classes across the province, including a weekly program in Corner Brook at Saltos Gymnastics.