NACOGDOCHES, Texas — The Stanley Center for Speech and Language Disorders at Stephen F. Austin State University has received a 2020 Speak Out and Loud Crowd grant from the Parkinson Voice Project, the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the world dedicated to helping individuals with Parkinson’s disease improve their speech and swallowing.

The SFA clinic is one of only 248 hospitals, university speech therapy clinics, private practices and nonprofit organizations worldwide to receive this funding. The grant provides free Speak Out training for the clinical instructors and graduate students in SFA’s speech-language pathology program. It also funds materials that are used in the Speak Out and Loud Crowd programs.

“Up to 90% of people with Parkinson’s are at high risk of losing their ability to speak, and aspiration pneumonia caused by swallowing issues accounts for 70% of the mortality rate in this patient population,” said Parkinson Voice Project Founder and CEO Samantha Elandary. “Awarding these grants substantially increases access to quality speech treatment to those living with Parkinson’s.”

East Texas has a large population of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, according to Deena Petersen, clinic director.

“We are fortunate to be trained in the Speak Out program to help these clients communicate better,” she said.

The clinic offers free therapy sessions to East Texans with Parkinson’s disease to help them learn how to speak with intent, Petersen said.

“People with Parkinson’s disease do not realize they are speaking softly and people cannot hear them. In the Speak Out program, clients become more aware of their speech and learn that when they speak, it must be with intention.”

In addition to individual Speak Out sessions, the Stanley Center for Speech and Language Disorders offers the Loud Crowd program, which is a maintenance program for patients with Parkinson’s disease offering ongoing vocal practice, accountability, support and encouragement. When clients complete the Speak Out program, they transition to Loud Crowd.

The Parkinson Voice Project’s grant program honors Dr. Daniel R. Boone, a world-renowned speech-language pathologist and voice expert who recognized in the late 1950s that individuals with Parkinson’s disease could improve their communication if they spoke with intent.

For more information on the clinic’s services, call (936) 468-7109.