Can you hear us now?
Today’s speech recognition systems, such as voice assistants and translation tools, don’t always recognize people with a diversity of speech patterns often associated with disabilities, yet communication is crucial to everyday life and increasingly necessary when using interactive softwear.
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has announced the Speech Accessibility Project, a new research initiative to make voice recognition technology more useful for people with a range of diverse speech patterns and disabilities. The project launched with cross-industry support from Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, as well as nonprofit organizations such as LSVT Global, with a goal of making speech recognition more inclusive of diverse speech patterns.
Get Involved: Share your voice with the Speech Accessibility Project!
Now recruiting individuals with Parkinson’s to help speech recognition tools understand diverse voices, including those affected by Parkinson’s and related neurological diagnoses, for example, MSA, PSP, CBD and post-DBS.
All personal information safeguarded at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Project funded by Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft. Record your speech from the comfort of your home. Mentors from LSVT Global are ready to help you through the participation process.
Get started today! Participants can earn up to $180. Caregivers can earn up to $90, as well. Visit to register:
Dysphagia and Dysarthria May Yield Clues to a Neurogenic Diagnosis
So, why is referral to Speech Pathology often delayed?
Recently I evaluated a patient with onset of speech and swallowing impairments dating back to August of 2022. The patient and his spouse admitted, that actually they noticed changes to his speech as far back as 3 years ago, and when reported to his PCP, referrals to a host of medical professionals began, including Neurology, Cardiology and ENT.
As of writing this he has an inconclusive medical diagnosis, but was finally referred for a speech and swallowing evaluation.
Referral to a Speech-language pathologist knowledgeable about neurogenic disease diagnosis can often provide an important clue to the referring physician, since motor speech symptoms often emerge early and reflect the area or areas of the brain which might be affected. Referral to a Speech-language Pathologist may also reduce the need for unnecessary testing and provide early intervention strategies which may improve or delay symptom progression.
A report in Archives of Neurology 2001;58 259-264 discussed the evolution of the symptoms Dysarthria and Dysphagia based on a post-mortem study of individuals with confirmed cases of Parkinson’s disease (PD), dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), cortical basal degeneration (CBD), Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). The retrospective analysis looked at the median survival time after symptom onset, and the correlation between latency to dysphagia and total survival time. Furthermore, they investigated whether the early appearance of dysarthria and dysphagia within 1 year of disease onset could improve accuracy of diagnosis of these disorders.
Their study found that the latency to the onset of dysarthria and dysphagia, as well as the duration of the dysarthria, differentiates patients with PD from those with related disorders, but did not differentiate those with Parkinson’s Plus diagnosis. Survival after onset of a complaint of dysphagia was similarly poor in those with PD as well as those with LBD or Parkinson’s Plus diagnosis.
Since presence of dysphagia was determined by patient report only, it is very likely that the short latency survival time reported in this study was partially reflective of patient’s often being poor historians and under-reporting symptoms, hence, only late in the disease progression when overt swallowing problems were evident was dysphagia documented.
What we cannot conclude from this study is whether early referral to Speech-language pathology for identification and management of motor speech and swallowing symptoms would reduce the impact and progression of symptoms and improve quality of life. 40 years of clinical practice tells me this is so.
Changes in speech and swallowing may be the earliest presentation of a neurological disease diagnosis, and primary care physicians need to consider early referral to a Speech-language pathologist when a patient first reports a concern.
Congratulations to Lauren Frey, 2023 Voice Aerobics Graduate Student Scholarship Recipient.
With a Masters degree in Music and Vocal Performance Lauren was already working professionally as an opera singer around the United States and Germany. When COVID-19 resulted in the closure of many operatic companies the pandemic put Lauren on a new track. She was forced to adapt to the circumstances and opened a music school in her hometown, and began graduate studies in Speech-language pathology. What an asset she will bring to her patients and to our field! To read more about Lauren and the annual scholarship, please visit: https://voiceaerobicsdvd.com/scholarship-winners/2023-scholarship-winner-lauren-frey/
My Mission: To enlist individuals in their treatment, and help them express their personality & spirit through voice. To educate and empower. Mary Spremulli, MA, CCC-SLP * FiTOUR® Group Exercise Instructor * Voice Aerobics® A Whole Body Approach to Voice Practice