Regaining Voices

Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects up to one million people in the United States and more than 10 million people worldwide. Parkinson’s presents both movement and non-movement symptoms, with about 80 percent of individuals experiencing speech difficulties.

Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic is helping patients regain their voices as a SPEAK OUT!® and LOUD Crowd® provider.

Jill Beuckens, assistant professor in the university’s speech-language hearing sciences department and the clinic supervisor, is a SPEAK OUT!® provider. There are 11 SPEAK OUT!® providers in North Dakota and 32 in Minnesota, six of whom work at the MSUM clinic.

SPEAK OUT!® is an effective speech therapy program developed by the Parkinson Voice Project. It focuses on strengthening the muscles used for speaking and swallowing and teaches patients how to speak with intent. Clients attend 12 weekly one-on-one sessions with a certified provider before transitioning to the second stage of the program, LOUD Crowd®. This phase includes free lifetime access to weekly group maintenance therapy.

“The LOUD Crowd® tells our clients we care, we want them to keep doing well, and we don't want medical expenses to hold them back,” says Beuckens. “Every three months we also check in with each client to see where they are at with their individual vocal demands.”

SPEAK OUT!® providers receive specialized training from the Parkinson Voice Project. Since one of the specialty areas in MSUM’s clinic is adults with voice and neurogenic type disorders, they received a grant allowing one person to travel to Texas for training. One of Beucken’s specialties is voice, so she attended the training and was surprised by the organization’s generosity.

“When I went down there, they said they would give five more free online trainings to our faculty,” says Beuckens.

After an intense three-day training, Beuckens was certified as a SPEAK OUT!® provider. Five additional faculty members received their certifications online shortly after, and the clinic has been transforming the lives of Parkinson’s patients ever since.

SPEAK OUT!® client Mary Sluke and her husband David are thankful for the program. From the welcoming atmosphere in the MSUM clinic to the encouragement Beuckens and the student clinicians provide as they coach, the program has allowed Mary to speak with intent.

“The SPEAK OUT!® program has given Mary tools to maintain volume, speech control and recommendations for safe swallowing,” says David Sluke. “Without this program, she might not be talking at all.”

MSUM students also benefit.

“The Parkinson Voice Project decided if a university supervisor became certified, they would allow students to complete the same online training the providers do,” says Beuckens. “These students can perform the SPEAK OUT!® program and guide the LOUD Crowd® as long as they are under the supervision of a certified speech pathologist.”

“We have been fortunate to have three great teachers who helped Mary. We are amazed how each student has been so positive, caring and totally loving the job they are doing,” says David Sluke. “The SPEAK OUT!® program is a success because of the leadership of Mrs. B and those she leads.”

Six graduate students have completed the online training and can apply for certification after graduation. MSUM continues to be indispensable to the community by helping patients cope with Parkinson’s and giving students real-world opportunities to prepare for their careers.

“Everybody deserves the ability to communicate,” says Beuckens. “When a client reports back and says they were able to read a book to their grandson or make a phone call to a loved one, you feel like you’re doing something right.”

If you or a loved one are interested in learning more about the program, contact the MSUM Speech-Language & Hearing Clinic at 218.477.2330 or Learn more about the Parkinson Voice Project® at


This story was first published in Moorhead Magazine, Spring 2019.


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