Parkinson’s LOUD crowd members get by during pandemic with a little help from their friends

Modeled after the Parkinson Voice Project’s SPEAK OUT! program, the LOUD Crowd is a weekly after-therapy program. All members have a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease or related movement disorder and have completed one-to-one speech therapy. In March the LOUD Crowd went virtual.

The Punta Gorda/Charlotte County Florida LOUD Crowd was formed October of 2016. Modeled after the Parkinson Voice Project’s SPEAK OUT! program, the LOUD Crowd is a weekly after-therapy program. All members have a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease or related movement disorder and have completed one-to-one speech therapy. They come together weekly to improve and maintain their communication skills and to provide each other with feedback and peer support. There is no fee to attend, and up until the pandemic, the group was meeting weekly in the aerobics room of Universal Fitness Gym in Deep Creek, much to the generosity of the club owners Peter Galizia and his wife and personal trainer, Jessica.

But, when businesses around the world and in our community went into lockdown March of 2020, the LOUD Crowd went virtual. And even though many members barely used a computer, much less ZOOM, everyone quickly caught on, and the number of participants increased.

The group’s facilitator, Mary Spremulli, a speech-language pathologist invited teletherapy patients to also join the group, and now at least half of the members joining each week reside throughout Florida.

Ninety percent to 95% of people with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease will develop speech and swallowing impairments. For this reason, enrollment in a speech therapy program is often recommended soon after diagnosis. But, even after an intensive 30-day treatment program, the benefits will be short-lived, if individuals do not keep up the practice. Staying the course with exercises is difficult for most of us, and even more challenging when managing symptoms of Parkinson’s can consume so much of a person’s time and thinking.

Recently, the local LOUD Crowd group received a $2,000 grant from the Parkinson’s Voice Project. The grant, which included donations from family and friends of a deceased member, provided additional materials (workbooks) to the group, and in the spirit of the “pay it forward” philosophy, group members happily designated a portion of the grant money go to Universal Fitness, in hopes that it will help the gym owners stay afloat during these challenging economic times. We get by with a little help from our friends.

If you would like to learn more about SPEAK OUT! speech therapy, visit the Parkinson’s Voice Project at www.parkinsonvoiceproject.org.

If you would like to enroll in speech therapy in person or via teletherapy, contact, Mary Spremulli,CCC-SLP 941-204-1515 or visit voiceaerobicsdvd.com.

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