How Can the Cause for Vocal Fry be Determined

Vocal Fry is a new trend in speech behavior, primarily among woman. The term ‘Vocal Fry’ stems from the fact that the oral sound is something like the sound of oil frying. Actually, Vocal fry is a low staccato vibration produced by a slow fluttering of the vocal chords.

This is a Vocal Fry Audio example

college girsl speaking in vocal fryIt has typically been a symptom of a voice disorder and not common. For instance, classically-trained singers know a lot about vocal fry because it is something they diligently try to fix if they are experiencing this speech disorder. However, Dr. Reena Gupta has found “relatively normal looking vocal cords” in young woman with this speech behavior.  The majority of women in college may now be using vocal fry in their regular everyday language, according to a recent study.

There are many theories as to why this trend is occurring in such a large demographic. One theory is young woman in college want to sound more forceful as they prepare to enter their careers. Vocal Fry may be an unconscious emulation of the way a man is perceived to sound in a leadership role. Another theory is that the young lady is merely copying the way pop stars speak, such as Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian.

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A Receptive or Expressive Language Disorder May be the Source for a Communication Issue

Communication is conducted primarily through receptive and expressive language skills. The expressive language skill can be summarized by how a person conveys meanings and intentions to another. Receptive language is the process of understanding that which is conveyed to us.

One talking and one listeningAs stated in Receptive vs Expressive Communication, “Expressive language involves making requests, giving information, and labeling things. Expressive language is more difficult because the individual has to recall the word or words they want to communicate and then be able to express. A lack of expressive language skills is often the cause of frustration and behavior in individuals with language disorders.”

The ability to follow directions, socialize and identify items are examples of receptive language. Difficulties in receptive language skills are not always recognized. A receptive language disorder may be overlooked as disagreement to a stated command, when the problem may really be a misunderstanding of the statement that was made.

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Speech Language Pathologist Can Aid in Reduction of a Foreign Accent

Individuals that have learned English as a second language may recognize the need for assistance pronouncing words in a more understandable manner. This need may occur even if an adult has been an English speaker for many years. The person may recognize the need to improve communication skills to enhance their public speaking or interpersonal communication skills.

Public Speaking Accent FreeA foreign language speaker wanting to improve their pronunciation can enter a classroom setting for ESL (English as a Second Language). This approach generally uses the method of listening to words pronounced correctly and then imitating that sound. Unfortunately, many people are unable to ‘imitate’ sounds, although they think they are saying a word correctly. However, the person can also reach out to a Speech Language Pathologist.

A Speech Pathologist is able to assist a bilingual adult that is seeking improved communication abilities, even though this problem is not considered a speech disorder. The need to improve an accent is considered a speech modification in Speech Language Pathology. A Speech Pathologist teaches the person ‘how’ to produce the sound…where to place the tongue and how to shape the lips so that the word is intelligible. For example, foreigner speakers often pronounce the words ‘cup’, ‘cop,’ and ‘cap’ the same way. There are subtle differences in tongue placement and duration of sound that change the word.

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A Lateral Lisp May Not Be Recognized by the Child With The Lisp

A  lisp in a child can be developmental or from incorrect placement of the tongue on the roof of the mouth, such as a lateral lisp.  A lateral lisp is caused by the child directing air flow down the sides of the tongue rather than directly down the middle of the tongue.  This causes the pronunciation of the letters  ‘S’ and ‘Z’ to be muffled or slushy.

Father reading with daughterWhat may not be obvious to the parent is that the child with a lisp does not perceive themselves as speaking differently from the children or adults around them. Therefore, waiting for the child to “grow out of it”  is not advisable, because children very rarely outgrow a ‘lateral’ lisp. The longer a child continues to pronounce words incorrectly, the more difficult it can be to correct the problem as the child grows older.

The result of waiting too long can be especially problematic as the child enters school. The child has the probability of being teased by peers and will not understand why. The child will perceive themselves as speaking flawlessly.

Beth Fine, of Fine Communication in Manhattan, New York, New York, had a young patient that, as an 8th grade student, had her dreams of having leading roles in school plays shattered because of her lateral lisp. She did not perceive her speech to be any different from her peers. With speech therapy, the student became aware of correct tongue placement and corrected her lisp in  a relatively short period of time. Now a college student, she speaks in front of large groups of people and has chosen to be a mentor to other girls.

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Early Evaluation of a Child’s Communication Development is Critical

The ability to communicate is essential to a person’s life. The development of communication skills develop early in life when we are children. According to the National Institute of Health in an article called Speech and Language Developmental Milestones, “the first 3 years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, is the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills.”

sad child

Early detection of any communication impairment in a child is critical because the ability to communicate is essential to learning. In Frequently Asked Questions: Speech and Language Disorders in the School Setting, the question is asked “How may a speech-language disorder affect school performance?”  The answer is “Children with communication disorders frequently do not perform at grade level. They may struggle with reading, have difficulty understanding and expressing language, misunderstand social cues, avoid attending school, show poor judgment, and have difficulty with tests.”  Deficits and delays in speech and language skills can negatively impact the normal progression of learning skills.

If you suspect your child may have a delay in communication development, an evaluation will provide valuable information. It is never too early to have your child evaluated. For children as young as 12-15 months, an evaluation can ease concerns and provide a base-line for follow-up visits to ensure continued progress.

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