Everyone has their own voice.
You have to look closely but you’ll see a slight tremor - a shake of the hand.
Otherwise it would be hard to to tell that there’s anything wrong with a group that just seems like old friends...
But for David Sloan and his fellow patients, this is therapy for Parkinson’s Disease.
“You have to be careful where you walk. And when you speak with people you need to make sure they can hear you,” said Sloan.
Sloan and his friends are working with their therapist Lynn Gallandt to speak intentionally, to use their bodies to actively say each word as strongly as they can.
Parkinson’s Disease can be in a word -- debilitating. That’s because as dopamine levels decrease in the brain from a loss of neurons, the body loses its ability to perform automatic movements like blinking, smiling, and talking.
“When you don’t have your voice and people have to constantly say, ‘What did you say?’ Or they just dismiss what you’re saying, that’s where people just start to pull back,” said Gallandt, who is a speech pathologist.
This newer form of therapy Sloan and his friends are participating in is called Speak Out! It's been available at Los Alamitos Medical Center since October, 2018. The center is one of only four places to offer the therapy in the Greater Los Angeles area.
Nearly 50,000 people are diagnosed with the disease in the United State every year.
The therapy seeks to re-activate the brain that does things intentionally, using pictures, fun games, and challenges to re-establish the mind-muscle connection that Parkinson’s has taken away.
“Their voice matters because their opinion matters because they still have a lot to give,” said Gallandt.
And while the physical part of therapy is certainly the primary objective, what can’t be overlooked is the social aspect because after Parkinson’s symptoms set in, many sufferers stop going out -- less able to walk, function or be heard.
“When you think about it, Parkinson’s isn’t a fun thing to talk about. But I think when you come and you learn and it forces you I think, to be a better person,” said Sloan.
Fellow patients often become friends -- which in many ways is therapy in itself.