Nancy Johnson knows what she wants to say, but it doesn’t always come out as clearly as she hopes. Nearly two years ago, Johnson was diagnosed with a progressive spinal cerebellar disorder, which affects her muscle control, including her ability to walk, speak and eat. “People couldn’t understand me and kept asking me to repeat things,” said Johnson. Her neurologist recommended she receive speech therapy at Duke.
The first step was to work on her speech, breathing and eating skills with her speech therapist. Johnson learned exercises that would improve her volume and clarity. Respiratory muscle strength training improved Johnson’s ability to inhale and exhale. Johnson also learned exercises that would strengthen the muscles she uses to chew and swallow.