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We only have one VOICE

By Maureen Penko - Speech-Language Pathologist

The sound of your child's voice is what make him or her unique. Some children have a higher pitch voice and others a lower pitch voice. I was asked to do voice treatment for a few 5-year olds, and one 4-year-old recently, whose voices were very hoarse and raspy. With Halloween just around the corner will hear children's and perhaps parents voices yelling out, "Trick or Treat" Loud cheering and yelling during sports activities, also makes it timely to write about this topic.

All children and adults strain their voices every now and then. Most of the time this does not do any harm to the vocal cords, the delicate bands of tissue in the voice box or larynx. However, a constant dose of muscle tension from repetitive screaming, yelling, or using the voice in an unnatural way can lead to hoarseness, a burning sensation in the throat, tightness and a significant effect on the voice. With children, you may hear a crackle in the voice and what sounds like laryngitis when they talk.

The three most common contributors to voice disorders are: voice misuse, medical issues and/or personality-related problems. Voice misuse - like yelling, shouting during sports, constantly speaking over a noisy environment, making growling, or squeaking noises while playing can lead to vocal fold irritation.

Let's look at ways in which we can help to use the voice effectively:

  • Modelling during play - we can use our voice to make car sounds with our lips or saying "beep, beep" rather than making the throaty grinding sounds
  • Relaxation and deep breathing exercises
  • Modelling other ways to cheer such as clapping hands, waving a banner along with occasional cheering, rather than screaming
  • Walking into the room to call your child rather than yelling from downstairs. This is especially important for the teenagers
  • Promoting a quiet reading time
  • Using a reinforcement chart to track techniques as a motivator

If your child has a tendency towards voice misuse - make a point of modelling a gentler voice when reading a story with the explanation of what we don't want our voice to sound like. Here is one I have used:

The Billy Goat Gruff....

Once upon a time there were three Billy goats, who were to go up to the hillside... of all three were named "Gruff."...."Who's that tramping over my bridge?" roared the troll......"It's I! The big Billy Goat Gruff," said the Billy goat, who had an ugly hoarse voice of his own "Now I 'm coming to gobble you up," roared the troll...

What does one do when the dysfunctional vocal quality persists?

  • Speak to your doctor is step one
  • Get referral to an ear nose and throat specialist
  • See a speech language pathologist for voice therapy

It is important to remember that we have one voice and how we model this use for our children of all ages is valuable not only for them but for us. Protect your voice.

Happy Holidays!

Maureen Penko is a registered speech language pathologist and owner of the practice Penko and Associates. Maureen has extensive experience working in hospital, rural and urban school settings. Assessment and Treatment services for speech and language concerns are listed on the website. Call today for an appointment; 204-510-7557. No referral required.

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