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Speech and language therapy for Parkinson's disease - help with communication and swallowing


"Yes, I also have therapy for my speech as I have to take my time when I am speaking. Now I know how to control my volume and people can understand me better"

  • §The speech and language therapist specialises in helping with speech and communication, and also with swallowing problems.

  • §PD can cause problems with the volume and tone of the voice, with expression and fluency, and with finding words and sustaining a conversation. The  stiffness of the muscles in PD also leads to loss of facial expression and body language and less eye contact.

  • §Early referral and assessment by a speech and language therapist helps to maintain communication skills. After assessment, they can advise on proper breathing and posture and on strategies and exercises to improve volume and expression. Speech and language therapists can also advise if communication aids and equipment would be useful.

  • §Some people with PD develop eating and swallowing problems. This is caused by stiffness and slowness of the muscles involved in chewing and swallowing, many of which are the same as those involved in speaking. Dribbling or drooling of saliva or food from the mouth is a common problem.

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  • §Speech and language therapists can assess the quality of swallowing and check that food is ‘not going down the wrong way’. This can cause coughing and choking and lead to chest infections. Sometimes a video-Xray can be useful to identify the problem.

  • §Advice can then be given on the best position and posture when eating and drinking, on the best consistency and texture of food and fluids, the speed and method of eating and on special equipment that may be useful. Alternative forms of medication can be considered if it is difficult to swallow tablets.

  • §Involving family members will help to reinforce what has been taught so that it carries over into everyday life. This also helps to avoid misunderstanding and frustration.

You may be able to refer yourself directly to a speech and language therapist, or need a referral from your family doctor or specialist.

The UK Parkinson’s Disease Society (telephone +44 (0)20 7931 8080; http://www.parkinsons.org.uk) publishes free information sheets on communication and speech and language therapy. A  booklet and video cassette (Face to Face’, by Iona Lister), a handbook with speech therapy exercises (‘Living with Parkinson’s Disease’) and an audio cassette of speech exercises are also available.

Useful websites include:

Technology for Disabilities


This site has been established for the dissemination of information. While every effort is made to ensure that information on this site is accurate and current we accept no liability for any omissions or inaccuracies that may have crept in. If in any doubt please contact your doctor for further advice.

Last Modified 13 August 2004
Maintained by Matthew Harris