Every Thursday afternoon for the last 3 years, I have gotten together with a group of men and women with Parkinson’s disease to host a weekly speech class, The LOUD Crowd®
We have become our own Toastmasters group, incorporating the concept of “speaking with intent,” and applying it to all aspects of communication and life. The initial impetus for most group members to attend is for after therapy speech practice, but, rather quickly, friendships form, and peer support and feedback, is cited by most members as just what they need to stay motivated through the week.
This past week, I witnessed the true caring nature of this group, when I invited them to help me, help a new patient of mine, a young man who suffered a massive stroke at the beginning of the year, and now is struggling with rather severe expressive aphasia. (Aphasia is a speech and language disorder resulting from stroke or other injury to the brain, causing an individual to experience difficulty with understanding and/ or using language.)
The young man, who I will refer to as “Joe,” recently relocated to our area with his wife where they can benefit from family support. But, for Joe, his stroke has not only meant the loss of speech, but the loss of a job, friends, and all of those other things that constitute our daily life and for a young man provide self-worth.
Knowing my LOUD Crowd members as I do, I was certain that they would invite Joe into the class with the same warmth they show any new member. And, like we usually do, we began class by going around the table and introducing ourselves, speaking with “intent,” and adding an extra statement about what it meant, such as “I am speaking with power,” “enthusiasm,” “focus,” etc. But on this particular Thursday, the importance of speaking loud and clear went far beyond a Parkinson’s symptom as each member recognized that they were Joe’s model. Their speech could serve as the cue for his speech, and so the afternoon went. A usual class, with lots of laughter, feedback, and well-wishes to Joe, when it was time for him to leave.
In the remaining 30 minutes, class members continued to process some of their feelings and reactions to interacting with someone with aphasia. Most felt empathic towards Joe, acknowledging that in that hour, at least, their own pre-occupation with Parkinson’s had receded far in to the background.
We finished the meeting by reviewing a Quality of Life questionnaire I had handed out a few weeks prior, and one of our members led the discussion.
Life is pretty good, most concluded even if they can’t run as fast, hit a golf ball as far, or race cars. They realized that there are people struggling with problems much worse than their own, and more importantly; perhaps, they recognized that despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s they could all still contribute in some meaningful way to someone else’s life.
Parkinson’s is said to be a multi-system disease affecting the brain and body, but, I have evidence that it has minimal impact on the heart and soul of persons affected. Don’t believe me? Come visit my weekly class. Visit my website for a schedule of classes and upcoming events.
Join Me for a Fun and Interactive Voice Aerobics® session November 7, 2019 in Bradenton, Florida. First Thursday Neurochallenge Parkinson Cafe. Visit their website to learn more:
Join Patrick LaSasso SMART X PD for his On Demand exercise video. HURRY it’s free for 2 days.
My MissionTo 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
Janis, thank you for your kind email. I love our group, and the friendships, support, and commitment of the members, and those spouses who make it possible for their partners to come every week. I agree with the group…life is good!
Mary, that was so beautifully written it made me tear up. The Loud Crowd means so much to the group and you are an angel for making our spouses lives better. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your compassion and devotion.