Cerebellum. 2022 Aug 24. doi: 10.1007/s12311-022-01462-9. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Progressive ataxias frequently lead to speech disorders and consequently impact on communication participation and psychosocial wellbeing. Whilst recent studies demonstrate the potential for improvements in these areas, these treatments generally require intensive input which can reduce acceptability of the approach. A new model of care-ClearSpeechTogether-is proposed which maximises treatment intensity whilst minimising demands on clinician. This study aimed to establish feasibility and accessibility of this approach and at the same time determine the potential benefits and adverse effects on people with progressive ataxias.
METHOD: This feasibility study targeted people with progressive ataxia and mild-moderate speech and gross motor impairment. ClearSpeechTogether consisted of four individual sessions over 2 weeks followed by 20 patient-led group sessions over 4 weeks. All sessions were provided online. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected for evaluation.
RESULTS: Nine participants completed treatment. Feasibility and acceptability were high and no adverse effects were reported. Statistical tests found significantly reduced vocal strain, improved reading intelligibility and increased participation and confidence. Participant interviews highlighted the value of group support internalisation of speech strategies and psycho-social wellbeing.
DISCUSSION: ClearSpeechTogether presented a feasible, acceptable intervention for a small cohort of people with progressive ataxia. It matched or exceeded the outcomes previously reported following individual therapy. Particularly notable was the fact that this could be achieved through patient led practice without the presence of a clinician. Pending confirmation of our results by larger, controlled trials, ClearSpeechTogether could represent an effective approach to manage speech problems in ataxia.