Latest news and research

Find out more about speech therapy for adults with all the latest news and developments. We’d love to hear from you, so if you have any questions or queries call, email or follow the link to Caroline Bartliff on Facebook and send me a private message. 

29th November 2020 Games to get you talking on your Christmas video calls

When you have a passion for language, it’s easy to get drawn to all the games out there that can encourage talking, word finding and even inference. Here’s a list of my top 5 favourite games, which can be adapted to be played via Zoom.  
1. Articulate – describe the word and let people guess. It’s great for practicing talking around a word. Articulate for kids is a nice easy introduction, if word finding is hard.
2. Catchphrase – I love this game, lots of opportunity to ‘Say what you see’.
3. Family Fortunes – a TV favourite, targets words related to each other and in groups, speech therapists call this ‘semantics’. Adapt it by counting and tallying number of responses rather than first to hit the buzzer. 
4. Who am I? this is a great game, which can be played anywhere with no resources at all. This game can be made easier as a ‘What am I game?’ Everyone writes down the name of an object and you take it in turns to ask closed questions – eg, Are you found in the kitchen? Are you big?  Keep asking until you get a ‘no’, then move on to the next person. 
5. Charades – an old classic. There are even apps out there to give you ideas of films, books, songs to act out and let every guess what you thinking.

3rd November 2019 Therapy for voice and swallowing problems: EMST

There are many different tools and techniques speech therapists can use to help voice and swallowing problems. Expiratory Muscle Strength training (EMST) has had a growing body of research evidence that shows it can reduce food and drink entering the lungs (the term we typically use is ‘aspiration’), improve voice quality and enhance the strength of coughing. The strength of cough is important so you can more effectively eject material that has ‘gone down the wrong way’. The protocol is simple and straightforward. There are contraindications though, so people with heart problems, asthma, reflux disease we would want to look at other types of therapy.

Dr Christine Sapienza has contributed a wealth of research in this area, so check out EMST research and contact me if you would like more information. We’re using this technique in clinic with people with Parkinson’s and seeing how it might also benefit people with Atypical Parkinson’s. It’s not just for people with Parkinson’s though. The EMST150 website has lots of information explaining the benefits of respiratory therapy for singers, vocalists and people wanting to improve their breath support to increases their stamina.

 24th November 2019 How can we improve voice quality?

There are a range of voice therapy techniques which can help. Semi-Occulded Vocal Tract therapy has received a lot of attention over the years, improving resonance, voice quality and power behind the voice. It’s popular because it’s easy and effective, but what’s the evidence? The article published by Meerschman et al in September 2018 assesses 3 different therapies, lip trill, water-resistance therapy and straw phonation. All were found to improve voice quality and reduce roughness. This is mainly achieved through better airflow with relaxed muscles.  

12th January 2020 Have you heard of LSVT and how it can help people with Parkinson’s?

LSVT stands for Lee Silverman Voice Therapy; it’s the most researched and evidence based treatment for people with Parkinson’s and we owe a lot to Dr Lorraine Ramig who developed this treatment over 25 years ago. LSVT global have a wealth of information on their site which outlines research papers and testimonials. This intensive voice therapy gets to know you and works with you to establish a strength to the voice that is then accepted as being the one that people need so people can hear you. It addresses the quieter/softer voice and fast/rushed speech that holds people back from talking as people struggle to understand what has been said. Watch some of the testimonals on Youtube by following this link LSVT does it work?

1st March 2020 Video Creator?

Hello everyone, I’ve added video creator to my long list of independent speech therapist skills! My daughter persuaded me to take her to VidCon this year so I was inspired to start creating videos for clients to explain aphasia or tell the people around them about their communication needs. It has been one of the toughest learning curves yet, but as I grapple with the emotions it brings forward, hopefully the end result will be a greater understanding out there how to use conversation support to help people with aphasia. So, watch this space for videos, they are on their way!

7th March 2020

Shutterstock image

Amazing connections within the brain, this is where all of our words and memories are stored. A great description of how cells communicate with each other can be found on the Science Daily site.

19th March 2020 Singing therapy

Lots of people shy away from singing, fearing their voices aren’t good enough. Being out of tune is often joked about and can seriously undermine confidence. We all have the anatomy to sing; the group I’m involved in Sing to Beat Parkinson’s shows how easy it is to get started, using simple melodies. With the prospect of isolation due to the Coronavirus, some passionate singing leaders have taken to video to bring singing to your home. This introduction video has a short breathing exercise and 3 songs. Why not give it a go? Happy singing!

5th April 2020 Is Zoom secure?

There are so many options when it comes to video consultation – Skype, Zoom, Facetime, Whatsapp, Microsoft Teams and the ones the NHS are launching accuRx and Attend Anywhere. The choice has often been led by the safest and most convenient or familiar to the client. With lockdown and a boom in accessing video, the question then comes – how secure are these systems? There have been cases where Zoom has had calls hacked. Skype has had usernames and passwords stolen in the past (so please make sure you have a strong password). Whatsapp is encrypted end to end. But Zoom is fighting back, with a default password feature and waiting room facility so only those invited can attend the call. I now have many different telehealth options; encryption or strong verification – the choice is yours!

23rd April 2020 iQoro – a new therapy tool?

The pioneer of iQoro has been researching the effectiveness of this treatment for many years. The evidence base is compelling for people with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), facial weakness following a stroke, treating the sphincter that allows reflux to pass into the throat and improving tone in the throat muscles to reduce snoring. It’s a simple protocol with exciting outcomes. I’ll be evaluating the effectiveness of this treatment in the Parkinson’s population as around 40% of the people I see have reflux symptoms. The outcome data in stroke is already there; it doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived with the facial weakness or dysphagia, a training programme proved effective. Contact me if you want more information or see the iQoro website to be inspired!

3rd May 2020 Conversation starters
When I run groups I use certain topics to encourage conversation. One of these is – Which charity do you like to support and why? If often prompts insights into life experiences, friends and family. It can help me understand what’s important to someone. When I ask myself this same question, it’s really tough to answer. So many worthy charities from large organisations to the small ones. How do you choose? The top ones I support:

  • Treetops Hospice – run lots of local events, charity shops, essential care support, grief counselling.
  • Parkinson’s UK – just brilliant research supporting members, clients and professionals. Online shop with helpful gadgets. 
  • Stroke association – run support groups, do research, offer a helpline, online shop. I love to buy Christmas cards from them. 
  • PSP/CBD association – this progressive neurological condition is a daily challenge for both clients and carers. It affects cognition, planning and can cause reckless behaviour leading to multiple falls and choking risk. I offer my professional time to voluntarily support them. 
  • MacMillan cancer – a yearly bake sale is usually my way of donating.
  • Sport Relief (linked to Comic Relief) – bi-annually we host a badminton fundraiser. More cake, with an added games night and music. It’s a fun way to give to this charity. 
  • Help4Heroes – our military support and protect us, I like to sponsor people to do Survival of the Fittest, ToughMudder type challenges (rather than do them myself!).

    So, why not start a conversation, ask your partner or a friend – which charity do you like to support and why?

24th May 2020 For the love of books
I absolutely love books, so when I found these I was over the moon! Sometimes few words and great pictures can explain a concept really well. I’m also tempted to buy the dog book which explains Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

20th June 2020 Communication charts – Why do SLT’s like them?
It’s frequently the case that a Speech Therapist will offer to create a communication chart when people are having difficulty understanding what someone is trying to convey. These charts help the therapist to know what’s important to an individual, topics they like to talk about, important people in their lives. From a communication perspective, yes the person can point to the picture to convey what they are thinking. But, they are also useful as a structure for closed questioning, if the person themselves can not point to the chart. A communication aid is just one tool in a whole box of options we use to facilitate the understanding and expression of the people we work with. Often it’s not just the object itself but the process of putting together the chart which can inform our understanding and shape therapy targets.

19th July 2020 International Parkinson’s community
There’s lots of helpful information and advice out there for people with Parkinson’s. The communication advice has been updated on the European Parkinson’s Disease Association (EPDA) website. Feel free to check it out by visiting Living Well in Parkinson’s. There are some hints and tips from Mary Spremulli and exercises available on You Tube.  Or, if you’re inspired to find out the latest research developments why not attend the virtual conference hosted by the Parkinson’s East Midlands Research Interest Group in October 2020.

26th July 2020 Artificial Intelligence in brain rehabilitation
Elon Musk is moving at pace with research on Neuralink, proposed to be a potential therapeutic tool of future. Exciting developments, let’s watch this space. 

18th September 2020 Learning opportunities from Virtual Conferences
There has to be some good from this pandemic, for me it’s been being able to attend some brilliant learning opportunities from US educators and professionals that I otherwise would not have had the chance to access. PROMPT is a technique which involves shaping and facilitating speech production, my refresher course in June saw me (virtually) sitting alongside international colleagues. Then the Movement Disorder Society moved it’s Philadelphia conference online, for free! Dystonia, MS, Parkinson’s, MSA, PSP many neurological conditions discussed with the latest research presented. The learning doesn’t stop there though as Parkinson’s UK have their Virtual Research Conference on the 24th/25th September, followed up by a patient research forum on the 10th October 2020. If you are living with Parkinson’s and would like to attend, you can register for it on this link: 9th Annual PEMRIG Forum 2020 or
The STAMMA annual general meeting is also online this year, 10th October 2020 available to members, where they will discuss plans for International Stammering Awareness Day on the 22nd October 2020. There’s no excuses now not to get involved! Enjoy. 


18th October 2020 Dysphagia – a hard pill to swallow
There are a few topics I cover frequently in clinic – easier ways of swallowing tablets when people find they stick in their throats and having naturally thicker fluids to give more time for the fluid to pass through the mouth so it doesn’t go ‘down the wrong way’. There are many companies out there that provide products for ‘dysphagia’ (a difficulty swallowing). One of my favourites is @slodrinks. It’s not always practical to have a large tub of thickener powder with you. Slo drinks sell small sachets of levels 1-3 powder, to make it really easy to thicken your favourite drink when you are out and about. They have free samples to try so why not look them up

6th April 2021 Music, memories and fluent speech
We often observe that people who stutter when they talk can often sing with ease or act out scenes fluently, only to recommence stuttering after.  Although, this YouTube clip on music and memories can seem a tenuous link, it explains how music activates many parts of the brain at the same time. The area of the brain involved in speech typically lies in the left temporal lobe, however, music not only stimulates the emotional centres but different brain regions depending on the mood of the music. If you want to read more information on this topic there are some interesting links from the speechbuddy blog.

Development of research on dementia – Is there a music project here in the UK which is using personalised music playlists to unlock the conversation skills of people with advanced dementia by tapping into their music memories? Please do email if you know of any. 

16th September 2021 Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) Conference
Since the Covid pandemic started I’ve attended lots of virtual conferences. It’s been a great opportunity to access content without the demand of time spent travelling. It was a pleasure this week though to attend the first in-person conference since the the world became a socially distanced one. MSA is a progressive neurological condition, which our community’s have rarely heard of. Raising awareness is one step; the MSA Trust provide a great deal of support, so we’d highly recommend contacting them if you, a family member or friend receive a diagnosis. They offer resources too to help explain the condition to children and young people.

21st November 2021 Swallowing tools – Are they needed?

Dysphagia is a term you may hear when someone is having difficulty swallowing. There are many muscles required to help us swallow and when problems arise it’s often a great concern due to the risk of it causing an aspiration pneumonia (chest infection). One technique to help dysphagia is thickening a drink, so it moves down the throat more slowly. There are several different thickeners on the market, the one we use most often in clinic is Nutilis Clear. It is a gum-based thickener, that is tolerated much better than the old starch-based ones. Viscgo are a company which offer a way of measuring if the drink you are offering is the correct level of thickness. A genius idea for people that are not confident in the level of thickness they are mixing. The hope is that people use these dysphagia sticks as a training tool to learn the thickness, moving away from thinking ‘this drink needs X number of scoops’ as we know that hot drinks require more thickener and we really want people to aim for the consistency, not the number of scoops. Any questions just drop me a message.

13th January 2022 Facts about stammering (from the British Stammering Association)

  • The majority of young children who stammer will stop naturally or though speech therapy.
  • Stammering affects 8% of children aged 2-5 years.
  • It can often run in families, around 60% of people that stammer have a relative who also stammers, or has stammered in the past.
  • Research has shown stammering to be neurological, the connections in the brain are wired slightly differently.
  • There are a variety of treatments that can be helpful, different techniques work and no one intervention is effective for everyone.