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Clients, students give BW Voice Clinic shout-out for success

It's a little clinic with a big voice — literally. And its impact is incredible. BW's Voice Clinic is a life-changing resource providing free assessment and treatment to clients in Northeast Ohio.

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Eric Bonilla, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders, uses the stroboscope alongside graduate SLP student Alyssa Fry, who assesses the images.

Located in BW's renowned Speech Clinic, the Voice Clinic assists individuals who may have a voice disorder due to a medical condition, such as a stroke, Parkinson's Disease, nodules, polyps, laryngitis or other diagnoses.

The clinic also provides services to transgender individuals and students whose career aspirations include the need for a professional voice, such as music theatre and voice performance majors.

Client-focused treatment spanning speaking, singing

"Our clinic plays an important role for clients as well as students studying speech-language pathology (SLP). Recent research suggests that less than 50% of SLP graduate-level students perform comprehensive voice evaluations during their studies. BW SLP graduate students complete at least two voice evaluations. Most of the students will also provide voice therapy to clients," said Amy Vaughn, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, an associate professor who teaches in the communication sciences & disorders undergraduate major and speech-language pathology graduate program.

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Vaughan analyzing data from a client assessment.

"One of the standout experiences for our graduate students is participating in a stroboscopic assessment. Stroboscopy allows the visualization of the vocal cords and surrounding structures while a person speaks and sings to see if there is atypical movement in the vocal cords or any structural anomalies. If there are functional issues, we work with the client to alter function. If there are structural issues, we refer the person to an ears, nose and throat physician for further evaluation because we don't treat structural deficits directly," she explained.

"Many clients have benefited from our services. Among students coming in for an assessment, we had a music theater major who came back to school after singing in summer theatre while sick with COVID. Because of the pain associated with singing while sick, the student learned how to posture her vocal folds in a way that eliminated the pain but resulted in her getting 'stuck' in an atypical posture. This caused a breathy voice, fatigue, and a decreased range and volume," remarked Vaughn.

"A stroboscopic exam showed the vocal cords were not approximating appropriately during singing. The student was able to see this on video in real time. After just a few therapy sessions, the student was singing again with ease. Generally, when a performance student has a problem, it is due to misuse of the mechanism and overuse of the system — something we call muscle tension dysphonia. When that happens, we enroll the person in voice therapy," she went on to say.

Outstanding learning center for SLP students

Speech-language pathology student Alyssa Fry '24 of Fremont, Ohio, recently applied her Voice Clinic experience at an externship she had with University Hospitals, where her patients ranged from pediatric to adult. "Many of the patients I evaluated have a voice component to their diagnosis," she noted. "I was able to apply my prior knowledge of doing voice assessments in the BW Clinic to my externship opportunity. This has allowed me to effectively assess and treat patients."

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Weber enjoys his role as an SLP at a hospital.

Jack Weber, M.S., CCC-SLP, '20 is putting his BW SLP graduate studies to good use in his career at Akron Children's Hospital. The Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, resident was among the first group of students to use the Voice Clinic when it began in 2019.

"During my time with the BW Voice Clinic, I was able to gain real-world knowledge and practice throughout the assessment and treatment of individuals with voice-related issues. The clinic provided me with a foundation to understand the treatment of a patient from a whole-body approach. I utilize this knowledge in my career as a licensed SLP in the fast-paced environment of a hospital," said Weber.

"When I was at BW, many of the patients with voice-related disorders I worked with had Parkinson's Disease. They had difficulty with specific use of their voice, especially volume and control of their voice as it related to their Parkinson's," stated Weber.

"I assisted them on intentional use of voice to increase their duration, intensity, range and overall control of their vocal mechanism. Many of the clients I worked with reported an increased quality of life, especially as it related to better communication abilities in their day-to-day environment," he explained.

Free services at the BW Speech Clinic

The Baldwin Wallace Speech Clinic provides speech, language, cognition and swallowing services to adults and children in the community. Students work under the supervision of licensed speech-language pathologists who are certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and licensed by the Ohio Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. Sessions are generally scheduled on a weekly basis and are offered year-round, including summer. All services are provided free of charge.

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