My PD Story

Julia Ellerston
Health Professionals

Julia Ellerston

I took a speech-language pathology job at the University of Utah's Voice Disorders Center in 2012. Because our clinic is located right next to the movement disorders neurology clinic, I started seeing quite a few patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) and became very excited by the impact that speech and swallowing therapy made on the quality of life in the patients that I saw. 

I completed a research paper examining common swallowing deficits in patients with Parkinson's disease in 2015 using quantitative measures of swallowing from modified barium swallow studies. I pursued getting trained by Parkinson Voice Project as a provider of their SPEAK OUT!® program in 2017. I have pursued grant funding to support the continued provision of that program in our clinic, with grants awarded from 2018-2023. In March 2021, I co-founded an online choir with a colleague of mine. I love being a care provider for people with Parkinson's disease!

I started to follow the Parkinson's Foundation when searching for resources for my patients several years ago. The Foundation has great resources on a variety of topics! In 2020, the movement disorders clinic included our clinic and its offerings as part of their application to be a Parkinson's Foundation Centers of Excellence. I am involved in my first Moving Day event this year — and reached out to the Foundation because I was interested in starting this event in the Salt Lake Valley!

If I had advice for someone who is newly diagnosed with Parkinson's, I would encourage them to:

  • Pay attention and be proactive about addressing their speech and swallowing before they feel like they have significant challenges. 

  • Take note if swallowing challenges go from a one-off thing to being more regular; this can be a great indication to get evaluated. 

  • Stay social and keep your communication demands high. Being involved in your community can help you identify early speech changes sooner. 

Finally, find enjoyment in using your voice (through speaking or singing) and in eating and drinking; these are some of life's greatest pleasures and help us all connect as humans!

Learn more about Speech & Swallowing Issues in Parkinson’s and programs that can help.

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