Spotlight on Dr. Jeanne Gallée and the Role of Speech-Language Services in Dementia Care

September 25, 2023

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Speech-language pathologist and researcher Jeanne (pronounced “sion” as in the word ‘fusion’) Gallée, PhD, CCC-SLP, has a passion for improving care options for people living with primary progressive aphasia (PPA), or other forms of dementia that affect language and speech. This patient population has difficulty with skills such as naming objects, finding words, or pronouncing words. But through speech-language therapy, these people can learn ways to compensate and better participate in life.

Gallée completed her doctoral work and clinical training in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology at Harvard University. She trained at the MGH Institute of Health Professions and held a clinical position at the Evergreen Speech and Hearing Clinic. Now, She works as a postdoctoral scholar in the UW Cognition & Cortical Dynamics Laboratory in the Department of Psychology studying the processes that support language in the brain. She is also a new co-investigator at the UW Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) and trainee in the ADRC Research and Education Component.

She remembers delivering a language assessment to a man living with PPA, a few months ago. Asked to name a series of objects, he could only name three out of 20 items. “But he knew what every object was,” says Gallée. “He used excellent strategies of talking around what he was trying to name. He talked about what it looks like, where it's used, when it's used, and how he uses the item in his own personal life. And that is completely functional communication.”

“I would say the role of a speech language pathologist is to untap someone's functional communication abilities and allow them to express themselves in ways that leave them feeling successful,” she says.

Speech language pathologists can provide assessment to inform a diagnosis, interventions tailored to a patient’s impairments and strategies for communicating in everyday life. These measures may include, for example, laminated pictures on magnets or velcro, pre-recorded voice messages, or visual planners. They can offer counseling to the patient and family, communication training for care partners, and facilitate support groups.

“One of my main motivations to work in this field is enhancing the autonomy of people living with these conditions. And one of those ways is making them feel like they can take ownership of how they are approaching their everyday life,”  she says.

In a commentary article published in the August 2023 issue of Neurology Clinical Practice, Gallée explores the important but underappreciated role of speech-language pathologists in dementia care. The motivation for the article, she notes, came from the need to advocate for earlier and more frequent referral to speech-language services for people living with PPA.

Records show that people living with PPA are not referred to speech-language services as often as others who qualify. “Unfortunately, there is a lack of knowledge that we can provide services that might not be curative but can facilitate a better quality of life,” says Gallée.

“What often happens is that people see the description of PPA as a progressive condition, and then decide that any type of services that could fall into the realm of rehabilitation aren't warranted. And that is false. Even if your skills are declining or you have progressive challenges, that does not preclude you from a chance at restorative or compensatory treatment.”

Gallée’s dream is for speech-language therapy to be more integrated into clinics. She hopes to ultimately help bridge the existing gap between the clinical and/or research visits, and the referrals to speech-language services.

As a new co-investigator in the ADRC Clinical Core, Gallée is working with research participants in the ADRC’s longitudinal study who have consented to speech-language assessment. “We will analyze the speech and language data with the hope of improving our assessments, as well as informing possible treatment,” she says. This work will contribute data to an ADRC research project to characterize differences in speech and language by dementia diagnosis.

“How can we use that knowledge to better subtype people and then create plans of care?” asks Gallée.

Outside of her research, Gallée is the Advocacy Committee Leader for the National Aphasia Association’s (NAA) PPA task force. “Through this position, I can help facilitate any type of support group services that someone might be seeking that are local or national.” You can find Jeanne Gallée facilitating the NAA’s bi-monthly PPA Chats for both people living with PPA and their partners. Learn more: Join Our Monthly PPA Chats - National Aphasia Association.




Gallée J, Volkmer A. Role of the Speech-Language Therapist/Pathologist in Primary Progressive AphasiaNeurol Clin Pract. 2023;13(4):e200178.