WTAMU Speech and Hearing Clinic Provides Therapy Services to Community
His slow speech and soft, hushed voice are symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, but Dr. Jimmy Pearson is fighting back with help from the West Texas A&M University Speech and Hearing Clinic.
Pearson, who holds a Ph.D. in plant breeding from Texas A&M University, started noticing subtle changes a few years before he was finally diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease 10 years ago. That first symptom—his left arm didn’t swing like it should—progressed to more gradual changes. Today Pearson enjoys walks around his Canyon neighborhood and watching his grandchildren play sports, but he still deals with some of the more common indications of the disease—stiffness of the limbs and facial muscles, slowness in movement, tremors and speech problems.
May is Better Speech and Hearing Month, and Pearson is just one of many community members benefiting from the services found at the clinic. He’s been a patient there for about four years, and his one-on-one sessions with WTAMU communication disorders graduate students focus on his voice, memory and functional activities.
“Dr. Pearson sees his participation at the clinic as a two-fold benefit,” Debbi Hutto, instructor and clinical supervisor, said. “He comes to our clinic to improve or maintain as much of his abilities as possible, and he’s also here at our student clinic to benefit students by giving them the opportunity to work with and/or research this disorder. As a person with his doctorate who had been involved with research himself, he sees what we do here in the program as a valuable undertaking. That dedication helps our students in numerous ways.”
This semester, Pearson is working with Letty Dominguez, a graduate student in communication disorders from Muleshoe, in two one-hour sessions each week. They begin the session working on orientation with a calendar. Dominguez asks Pearson what month it is, the day and year as well as the name of the clinic and its location. His goal is to answer each question within a certain time frame in a loud, clear voice. His session also includes work on crossword puzzles with clues about family members and a memory book full of family photos. Pearson also works with Visi-Pitch in the clinic’s state-of-the-art voice lab to enhance his voice production.
“I enjoy working with him. He’s a funny, caring person, and he’s always here,” Dominguez said. “He’s our only client with Parkinson’s and as students, that helps us understand what he’s dealing with and what a person with Parkinson’s goes through.”
Dominguez said Pearson never misses an appointment. In fact, he and his wife Joyce always arrive early, ready to work.
“This has been such a great experience,” his wife said. “Parkinson’s is slowly taking his speech away so coming here every week and working with the students has been so good for him. He enjoys it.”
The West Texas A&M University Speech and Hearing Clinic is a clinic-based training program offering comprehensive speech and language evaluations and intervention. Treatment and evaluations are available through the clinic located in the Virgil Henson Activities Center on the WTAMU campus to help with speech, language and hearing issues such as stuttering, learning disabilities, stroke, Alzheimer’s, brain injury and voice to hearing impairments and tinnitus.
For more information about Better Speech and Hearing Month and services available at the WTAMU Speech and Hearing Clinic, call 806-651-5101.