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Parkinson Voice Project hopes to expand services throughout Washington

SPOKANE, Wash. - For people suffering from Parkinson's disease, daily tasks like talking on the phone can become impossible. But a remarkable program at Eastern Washington University, the Parkinson's Voice Project, has been working to change that. 

It's where Kate Van Vlymen turned when her diagnosis brought her to a dark place. 

“Basically at that time, to hear that i had Parkinson's, I shut down,” Kate explained.

Before her diagnosis, Kate used to speak on stage. 

She feared she might lose her ability to communicate.

"They didn't understand me," said Kate. "What would happen is I would start to speak to them and I wanted to get through it so fast that I would lose half of my conversation.”

For those who suffer from the disease, it's typical to experience speech problems. That's where the Parkinson's Voice Project comes in.

“We're just working on them to make speaking with intent more voluntary. Because what happens is that automatic process of knowing that you're talking loud enough and being understood is diminished,” explained Doreen Nicholas, the Clinical Director at Eastern Washington University's Hearing and Speech Clinic 

Research shows it works, but you don't have to crack open the books to see that.

"It''s amazing. I started, like I say, not that long ago with the speech therapy and within the first month, my kids were like 'mom, you're doing so good now, i hear you," said Kate.

The project recently received $650,000 in grant money to spread the wealth.

“Their goal is that more therapists get trained so that more people living with Parkinson's can live a better life,” said Nicholas.

And reach their goals.

“I don't know how Parkinson's is going to affect me overall but my goal is to get on stage again,” added Kate.

The Parkinson's Voice Project is accepting applications for speech-language pathologists who'd like to be trained in their program through March.
 


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