NACOGDOCHES, Texas — The Stanley Center for Speech and Language Disorders at Stephen F. Austin State University will begin offering free speech therapy to people with Parkinson’s disease Sept. 4 through a two-part grant-funded program with the Parkinson Voice Project: Speak out! and Loud Crowd.

The Parkinson Voice Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing speech disorders that people with Parkinson’s disease develop. Through the grant, five faculty members in SFA’s Department of Human Services and all graduate students studying speech-language pathology have been trained to conduct the program.

Speak out! is a four-week intensive individual therapy program designed to address the motor speech deficits associated with Parkinson’s disease, such as softer speech, a hoarse or scratchy voice and inconsistent speech volumes.

“People with Parkinson’s disease lose dopamine, a chemical released by neurons to send signals to other nerve cells, which helps them communicate with all parts of the body,” said Deena Petersen, director for the Stanley Center for Speech and Language Disorders at SFA. “Through this program, we teach people how to be intentional in their speech. This helps bypass the part of the brain that requires dopamine.”

After completing the Speak out! phase, participants will progress to the Loud Crowd portion, where they will engage in a group therapy setting once a week for maintenance.

The Stanley Center for Speech and Language Disorders doubles as a community clinic and learning facility for SFA students to hone their skills in a supervised setting. Graduate students will be conducting the therapy supervised by licensed speech-language pathologists for both parts of the program.

“There are limited services in the area for those with Parkinson’s disease, and we feel offering these two programs will provide an opportunity to enhance the communication skills of this population and bring more adults into the clinic,” Petersen said.

For more information, contact the center at (936) 468-7109.