Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Terrance cultivated tomatoes...

Whenever I write and post something that is critical and negative about Parkinson's Disease, I run the risk of sounding like I'm whining.  To the contrary, I don't believe there is anything more significant to a person with this insidious condition than empathy - identifying with someone who is experiencing the same feelings and frustrations. That's why I write...for you who have PD.

For those of you who don't have PD, but are still interested, this is a look "inside the Parkinson's Brain" - figuratively speaking, of course.

Up until two days ago, I had mixed feelings about the speech therapy process.  In my analytical  world, I don't like to be told to do something without knowing WHY I'm doing it.   Initially, I was told to say "aaah" as loud and as long as I could in a mid-range tone.  They were testing my capacity for breathing with my diaphragm.  It also became a benchmark to assess progress or decline over the course of time.  There are some other exercises we do, also, but frankly, I tolerated these in hopes that we would go deeper into understanding the problem and maybe finding acceptable solutions.

A light went on when my therapist answered a question I had asked about why I couldn't read aloud a long sentence...one that any 5th grader could tackle with ease.  In so many words, she said my problem was physical not necessarily mental.  What I  am attempting to do (what I used to do without effort) is to synchronize my tongue, jaw, lips and vocal chords with my lungs and diaphragm until my air supply is used up, take another breath and repeat the process.  "No problem," you say.  Except in the case where none of the above muscles are working properly.  I run out of air after four or five syllables.  This is where I need to focus my attention and practice.  Now I understand WHY I need to practice and WHAT it is I need to practice...synchronizing those muscle groups.

Here's an example:   "Terrance cultivated tomatoes and turnips in his terrace gardens."  When I try to read that at a volume of about 80 dB (so people can hear me), I quickly run out of breath.  I have to break it up into manageable phrases...

Terrance -(breath)- cultivated -(breath)- tomatoes and turnips -(breath)- in his terrace -(breath)- gardens.

Try that for yourself - aloud, breathing  in deeply at each break.  Now, try it without reading words from a page, but rather think a thought, visualize the words - with breath spaces - then say them.  If the person you're addressing, can't hear you, say it again - louder...one sentence at a time.

How did you do?  For a guy like me that is used to doing everything at warp speed, it can become very interesting.  My perception at this moment in time - is that asking me to try harder, is not unlike asking a person with Cerebral Palsy to try harder to sit up straight.


Hopefully, with time and practice, my talking will improve.  Practice, practice, practice.  If you are considering speech therapy:  Don't discount it early on.  Hang in there - find out WHY you need to practice then the WHAT will make sense.

1 comment:

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