The benefits and fun of integrating LSVT LOUD at UMass!

Lisa Sommers, MA, CCC-SLP, an LSVT LOUD Certified Speech Therapist since 2008, shares her experience in helping to facilitate LSVT LOUD training at her university.

What practice setting are you currently in?

I came to the University of Massachusetts in 2014 after many years of clinical practice. In my clinical positions, I worked to encourage rehabilitation department administrators to send our SLP’s, OT’s, and PT’s for LSVT training and to develop robust LSVT LOUD and LSVT BIG programs. It was hard to say goodbye to my fellow clinicians and all our PD community members, but I wanted to be in a university setting so that I could help train the next generation of SLP’s.  It has been quite an adventure learning the ins and outs of a university setting! There is so much learning that takes place in two short years of graduate school, and it has been a challenge to find time to give the students opportunities beyond the classroom and clinical placements.

How have you integrated LSVT LOUD into your University program?

One of the opportunities that I have enjoyed coordinating is LSVT LOUD Training and Certification Courses for interested graduate students. Every year over the winter break, I coordinate online group LSVT LOUD Training and Certification for students. We complete the online LSVT LOUD Training and Certification Course together over two (very) long days. As I have been LSVT LOUD certified for quite a long time, I have lots of clinical stories and examples to share with the students. We pause the videos and discuss the content in an in-depth manner, and the students tell me that they really appreciate the elaborations and the chance to ask in-depth questions.

At the end of our second day of training after everyone has taken their certification test (and passed!) the students have a chance to work with individuals diagnosed with PD who graciously volunteer their time to be pretend patients for the students. Some of the people with PD have gone through LSVT LOUD already and are a wonderful resource for the students. It also helps these individuals be reminded of the value of daily practice! It is not unusual for the students to listen in as newly diagnosed volunteers get advice and encouragement from others who are further along the path of PD. The students learn so much from observing and listening to the patients, and this part of the training gets rave reviews from the students! This year I had a record number of students (23 of them!) complete the training. At the end of the two days, they were exhausted, but all happy with their learning and accomplishments!

What value does LSVT LOUD training offer for your students?

I believe that a university setting is the perfect place to promote LSVT LOUD training! We emphasize evidence-based treatment at every opportunity in our university programs, and LSVT LOUD gives us the perfect opportunity to merge the research with the hands-on clinical training. I know that when my students complete LSVT training they are gaining valuable general knowledge about PD and acquiring specific knowledge and skills in a treatment that is supported by years of research. This training elevates their resumes when being considered for clinical placements in graduate school; potential supervisors often comment about how impressive it is to interview a student who has this level of training, and who can participate in this treatment under their supervision as a LSVT LOUD-certified SLP.

What has been one of the greatest benefits of having LSVT LOUD at your University?

Because our UMass graduate students often settle and work in this area after graduate school, we have also contributed significantly to the number of LSVT-LOUD certified clinicians in our geographic area, which is in great need of health care professionals with expertise in Parkinson’s Disease. These new SLP’s have advocated for their OT and PT colleagues to be trained in LSVT BIG as well, which elevates the professional practice of all the disciplines! These clinicians eventually take my students for practicum placements, and the cycle of training and mentoring continues—it’s a beautiful thing! But best of all…members of our community that deal with the daily challenges of PD are getting the gold standard treatment from compassionate and talented newly trained professionals. It’s a win-win!!!

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“The Online LSVT LOUD Training and Certification Course provides an exciting opportunity for students to receive this specialty certification before graduation. After certification, students benefit from being able to implement supervised LSVT LOUD during their internships, and people with PD and other conditions benefit from increased access to this evidence-based speech treatment with maintenance of treatment fidelity.  It is thrilling to see the excitement in students and faculty alike who complete the group online training program for universities.

For many universities, facilitating access to LSVT LOUD training has become an important component of their graduate program. Faculty and students appreciate that because LSVT LOUD is based on principles of neural plasticity, the concepts taught have an influence on an individual’s overall approach to treatment delivery. Best of all, it ultimately improves the quality of care of people with PD in these local communities and beyond.”

-Angela Halpern, Chief Clinical Officer-LSVT LOUD