Anne Marie Kubat

Anne Marie Kubat

Penn State is expanding its speech and language treatment program for Parkinson’s disease patients statewide through a $280,000 grant from a Texas nonprofit clinic.

The Parkinson Voice Project, of Richardson, Texas, is awarding the grant to Penn State’s Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic, including training, services, supplies and equipment over five years.

It is designating the Penn State program as Pennsylvania’s only SPEAK OUT Therapy & Research Center.

SPEAK OUT is based on principles of motor learning and the teachings of the late Daniel R. Boone, who recognized that individuals with Parkinson’s could improve their communication by “speaking with intent.”

The Parkinson Voice Project has selected SPEAK OUT as its primary treatment method. The project leaders say most people with Parkinson’s are at risk of losing their ability to speak, and swallowing complications represent the main cause of death.

Through this collaboration, the Penn State clinic will specialize in providing SPEAK OUT therapy – either at its clinic in State College or through telepractice – at no cost to any person in Pennsylvania diagnosed with Parkinson’s or a related movement disorder.

Penn State is one of 16 universities across the country selected this year to receive this grant as part of the project’s Campaign to Reach America.

“Their goal over five years is to have one center for every state,” said Anne Marie Kubat, clinic coordinator and associate teaching professor in Penn State’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Kubat serves as the clinical lead and Nicole Etter serves as the research lead for the SPEAK OUT center.

Penn State has been involved in the SPEAK OUT program for about five years, with funding from previous, smaller grants used to train about 100 students and eight to 10 faculty members in the SPEAK OUT treatment, Kubat said.

The treatment addresses what Kubat calls the hallmark of Parkinson’s: motor movement becoming smaller over time. She gave the example of the shuffling step that is common in patients. The same phenomenon affects speech and swallowing.

“This happens because they don’t use those muscles as much,” she said.

“SPEAK OUT emphasizes being more intentional in the movement.”

The treatment involves a series of sessions at least three times a week for four weeks with homework every day, Kubat explained.

“This teaches people with Parkinson’s to be more deliberate in their speech,” she said.

“Most of our clients make significant improvements in their speech and in their movement.”

Those interested in joining Penn State’s program, either online or at the State College clinic, can reach the center at 814-865-5414. The process starts with an evaluation and video webinar.

Kubat suggests those taking the telepractice program have a laptop or tablet because the instructor will be modeling actions for participants.

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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