From Former Client to Future SLP Summer vacation-a time to relax and get a suntan at the beach, party until the break of dawn, hang out at the mall, go on road trips with friends to the middle of nowhere, and sleep in until 2 p.m. Sounds like fun, right? Well, this 22-year-old college student decided ... Features
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Features  |   November 01, 2004
From Former Client to Future SLP
Author Notes
  • Mario Landera, is a graduate student at the University of Florida. This fall he entered his first year in the master’s program in speech-language pathology.
    Mario Landera, is a graduate student at the University of Florida. This fall he entered his first year in the master’s program in speech-language pathology.×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Voice Disorders / Swallowing, Dysphagia & Feeding Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Features
Features   |   November 01, 2004
From Former Client to Future SLP
The ASHA Leader, November 2004, Vol. 9, 25-29. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR4.09202004.25
The ASHA Leader, November 2004, Vol. 9, 25-29. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR4.09202004.25
Summer vacation-a time to relax and get a suntan at the beach, party until the break of dawn, hang out at the mall, go on road trips with friends to the middle of nowhere, and sleep in until 2 p.m. Sounds like fun, right? Well, this 22-year-old college student decided to spend summer a little differently last year.
My former speech-language pathologist, Donna Lundy, agreed to allow me to shadow her during clinic sessions for the summer. I was going to observe patients with voice and swallowing disorders at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. The prospect of spending my summer observing an SLP was quite exciting.
I had known I wanted to help others with communication difficulties ever since Donna helped me with a voice disorder. It all started during sixth grade. I was nervously anticipating the dramatic changes that take place during a normal teenager’s life. A new school, new friends, new teachers, and new classes were all part of my transition period toward middle school. These new experiences were topped off with the onset of puberty. It is no wonder that teenagers are so difficult to handle. They have so many new things to get adjusted to during those years. I, unfortunately, had another hurdle to conquer. What seemed to be laryngitis was lasting a bit longer than usual and I had no idea why. I developed a soft, whispery, and hoarse voice. I went to countless doctors seeking answers, to no avail.
After two years of living with this condition, I decided to try speech therapy. I must have gone about a dozen times. The SLP had me singing in a higher than normal pitch for an average male. I saw no results and felt that treatment was a waste of my time. I gave it up for another two years. I had to endure the pain of being picked on as “the mute” in my school. Kids would tease me everyday, to see if they would be the first to hear my voice. I felt resigned to unhappily live with the condition.
Four years passed. My mother pushed me to meet with another SLP at a local hospital. I had practically given up hope for a normal voice. The SLP heard “my voice” and thought she had an answer. She referred me to Donna Lundy, an SLP who specialized in voice disorders. I was quite skeptical about meeting her. Upon my evaluation, Donna told me I would have the voice that I desired in a week’s time. I just sat in my chair shocked by the possibility. I was speechless (no pun intended). I did not know what to say or think, but decided to try.
A week later, I came in for therapy for two days. Donna instructed me to talk in a low-pitched voice for six hours each day. After this treatment routine, I was able to regain my voice. I was so happy. It was the greatest day of my life. She explained that I was diagnosed with mutational falsetto (a.k.a. puberphonia). Apparently, while my voice was changing during puberty, I subconsciously did not allow my vocal folds to drop down to a lower pitch. I was afraid of the voice cracks that happen during puberty, so I tried to avoid them by keeping to a high pitch, which led my voice to become whispery and hoarse through time.
While shadowing Donna at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, I observed an 18-year-old patient who also had mutational falsetto. It brought back memories. I comforted him and told him I understood his pain. Donna would take care of him and help him regain his voice, just the way she helped me.
I observed many other conditions that could arise in patients with voice disorders. Looking through both a flexible and a rigid endoscope, I saw nodules, polyps, and cysts on the vocal folds. I observed how Cymetra shots help bulk up a vocal fold, and how Botox injections help relax the vocal folds. I sat in on a few treatment sessions as well.
I also observed patients who have swallowing disorders. The procedures I saw with these patients included voice prosthesis resizing, changing, and cleaning. In addition to this, I saw barium swallowing studies in the X-ray room. Finally, I sat in on a few treatment sessions that dealt with strengthening the tongue and swallowing muscles.
Not only did I learn about the many types of disorders that could happen to voice and swallowing patients, but I also learned how to deal with patients. This interpersonal skill is very important for successful treatment.
I had an amazing time last summer. I learned so much about this field, particularly about voice and swallowing disorders. This shadowing experience reassured me that speech-language pathology is the career for me.
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November 2004
Volume 9, Issue 20