Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects 150,000 people in Australia (source: It is characterised by a wide range of motor symptoms, including tremors, rigidity, slowness of movement and postural instability. In addition to these well-known symptoms, Parkinson’s disease can also have a significant impact on speech and communication abilities. This is where speech pathology, a specialised field of therapy, plays a crucial role in helping individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Did you know? 
There are muscles in the lips, tongue, throat, cheeks, and jaw… we use around 100 muscles to speak and some 50 pairs of muscles to eat and drink. Communication and swallowing are complex processes. The most frequently encountered problems in Parkinson’s disease are dysarthria and dysphagia.

Dysarthria? Dysphagia? What are they? 
Dysarthria (pronounced as dis-ar-three-ah) is muscle weakness, paralysis or poor coordination of breathing and speech muscles, and can affect a person’s speech volume or cause them to slur their speech.
Dysphagia (pronounced as dis-fey-ja) is difficulty swallowing, meaning someone has difficulty chewing food or keeping food/liquid in their mouth. Difficulty swallowing can lead to coughing and choking, which can lead to food collecting in the lungs (aspiration).

Speech pathology, also referred to as speech therapy or speech-language pathology, offers a range of interventions and strategies to address the difficulties associated with Parkinson’s disease. Speech Pathologists are trained professionals who work closely with individuals with Parkinson’s to assess their specific speech, communication and swallowing needs and develop tailored treatment plans.

When meeting with individuals with Parkinson’s, Plena’s Speech Pathologists will conduct an initial assessment that will start by considering:

  1. Is the individual able to communicate effectively with people around them? Are there any therapy techniques or supports that can be implemented to enhance communication success?

Speech therapy can, in some cases, improve speech and language deficits or help a person maintain their skills from further deterioration. Speech Pathologists will discuss goals with the client and their support circle to identify functional communication goals.

  1. Is the individual managing their diet well? Is their diet safe and enjoyable?

The Speech Pathologist will complete a swallowing assessment to determine the most suitable diet for a person. Education will be provided on safe swallow strategies and ways to enhance mealtime enjoyment as well as quality of life. If required, the Speech Pathologist may also provide swallowing rehabilitation.

Parkinson’s disease not only affects motor function by has significant implications for communication and swallowing. Speech pathology offers valuable interventions to support and improve quality of life for individuals with Parkinson’s. Through the expertise of speech-language pathologies, individual with Parkinson’s can regain confidence in their ability to communicate effectively, enhancing overall wellbeing and social interactions.