Entries in Speech (10)


How Teens Talk May Determine If They Want to Go to College

Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you want to know whether your teenage girl wants to go to college, listen carefully to how she talks.

A new study from Michigan State University found that girls who were looking to further their education started changing the way they spoke in the hopes of fitting into a larger arena.  The girls spoke more carefully than casually and no longer shortened words like 'running' to the slang term 'runnin''.

Researchers concluded that girls with lower social and educational aspirations felt no pressure to change and no incentive to stop sounding local.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Stuttering Kids Find Relief Through Theater-Based Program

File photo. Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Alina Davis of Leesport, Pa. was bullied so badly her sophomore year that she left and finished high school at home. The bullies' motivation? Alina's stuttering.

Alina's high school experience is all too common, causing many kids who stutter to withdraw into silence.

The 2011 Oscar award-winning film, The King's Speech, showcased King George VI of Great Britain's struggle with stuttering. Alina recalled the scene she most relates to: "When he was emotional and crying about it because stuttering has that effect on me."

At age 16, Alina's stuttering, and the way people reacted to it, drove her into depression. But then a speech pathologist suggested she look into a New York-based program for kids who stutter called Our Time.

Alina liked the idea, but New York is two and half hours from her Pennsylvania home. Despite the distance, she and her mother made the commute to the Big Apple, where she says she found her lifeline.

Our Time was created by Taro Alexander, a New York City actor who also stutters. Alexander uses his theater experience to teach kids to write about their feelings and to turn their words into songs and plays. Most people who stutter are perfectly fluent when they sing and some also lose their stutter when they act so Our Time finds success building self-esteem, confidence and communication skills on stage.

The kids' lyrics range from heartbreaking to triumphant, and Alexander said he sees their performances bring transformation.

"You see a kid standing onstage, looking at hundreds of people, cheering for them. And you see that pride in the way that they walk, you see that pride in their smile, you see that pride in a twinkle in their eye," he said.

The most important thing for these kids to know, Alexander said, is that they're not alone.

"I was 26 before I met anyone else who stutters so that feeling, day in and day out, 'I'm the only one' -- I thought, wouldn't it be great if there was a place where young people who stutter could come and know that it's okay to be themselves."

Nowhere is it more "okay" for them to be themselves than at Camp Our Time, a summer camp run by Our Time in North Carolina. Kids who stutter (and their family or friends) aged 8 to 18 from all around the country gather at the camp for 10 days of summer fun and an escape from the real world.

Camp rule no. 1? No one is allowed to finish anyone's sentences. Campers' stutters range from mild to severe, some coupled with other disorders.

Speech pathologist Joe Klein of Appalachian State University, who participated in a round table discussion held at the camp, cleared up some common misconceptions on stuttering.

"People don't stutter because they are 'nervous.' People don't stutter because 'they don't know what they are saying.' Some people will say they know more words, because they are always word changing, so they have to know all the synonyms, you know, for all the words they can't say," he said.

The precise cause for stuttering is not clear, but research has shown it has both genetic and neurological components. Five percent of all kids stutter but 75 percent of them will grow out of it without any therapy. That leaves 1 percent of adults, or more than 68 million people worldwide, with a stutter.

As for a cure, Klein said, "There is no cure for stuttering. Once somebody has been stuttering for about three or four years, they are always going to stutter. And so, our job as therapists is to make them the best communicator they can be."

So why don't people stutter when they sing? Klein explained, "Singing is really driven from a different part of the brain. The person knows the words by heart so there's no word finding or anything else. There's a lot of constant phonation. The words are produced more slowly when you sing. You elongate the words. So, there are a lot of different reasons."

Alina credits Our Time with helping her regain her spirit.

"Our Time has changed my life. Without it I wouldn't be accepting of how I speak and, and now I am. I have friends who know how I feel and that is amazing."

She has taken her newfound confidence to help make the transition from home school to college in New York City where she's studying to become a speech pathologist. She's also made her television acting debut starring as a stuttering woman in an episode of ABC's What Would You Do?

Alina said she still encounters impatience and insensitivity on occasion but said she is better equipped to deal with it. She is now a volunteer at Our Time and a Camp Our Time counselor. She credits her stutter with making her a more compassionate person. In fact, Alina said that if she were offered a pill to make her stuttering vanish, she would probably decline.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The 25 Words Your Toddler Likely Knows

Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(VANCOUVER) -- If your toddler is having trouble building her vocabulary, you’ll want steer her toward the word “dog” rather than, say, “aardvark.”

It may be common sense, but now there’s a growing body of scientific research to back it up, says psychology professor Leslie Altman Rescorla.

Rescorla, the director of the Child Study Institute at Bryn Mawr College, presented research on late talkers in the United States and around the world this past weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science‘s annual conference.

Rescorla said that recent studies of children’s language development in Greece, the Netherlands and South Korea echo findings she published in 2001 -- that whether a child is slow to learn language or learns language at an average rate, there are certain commonly used words that she is likely to know.  And when working on language intervention for late talkers, Rescorla said, it’s good to focus on such words when building a basic vocabulary.

Based on her own research and that of collaborators in other countries, Rescorcla compiled a list of the 25 most commonly used words and expressions by children at age 2.  They are:

-- mommy
-- daddy
-- baby
-- milk
-- juice
-- hi/hello
-- ball
-- no
-- yes
-- dog
-- cat
-- nose
-- eye
-- banana
-- cookie
-- car
-- hot
-- thank you
-- bath
-- shoe
-- hat
-- book
-- all gone
-- bye bye
-- more

Rescorla said children are considered late talkers when they say fewer than 50 words at the age of 24 months. Such delays may be symptomatic of hearing problems, an autism spectrum disorder or another developmental disability.

Her research on children with language delays -- and no other disabilities -- showed that late talkers were, “functioning at the normal range” by about age 4 or 5.

“The important point is they’re not learning language in some very unusual way, they’re just learning it later,” she said.

A long-term study by Rescorla of late talkers in affluent Philadelphia suburbs found that by age 17, the teens’ performance was at or above average, though they still lagged behind the language skills of their privileged peers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Autism Plus Mental Illness Affects Disorder's Course, Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- Additional mental disorders, such as learning disabilities, speech problems and epilepsy, could help predict which children might grow out of their autism diagnosis as they age, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied more than 1,300 children who had been diagnosed with autism. The researchers found that certain disorders distinguished children who had a current autism diagnosis from those who had fallen out of the autism category as they aged.

The disorders varied for autistic children of different ages.  In children ages 3 to 5, those with autism were 11 times as likely to have a learning disability and nine times as likely to have a developmental delay as those children who had grown out of an official autism diagnosis.

Autistic children ages 6 to 11 were nearly four times as likely to have past speech problems and 3.5 times as likely to have moderate to severe anxiety.

Autistic teenagers were 10 times as likely to have seizures or epilepsy as children who were no longer classified as autistic.

The symptoms of these different disorders greatly overlap with the symptoms of autism, which is defined by a broad spectrum of behavioral, social and communication deficits.  But the researchers say the study suggests that separate diagnoses of learning disabilities or speech problems appeared to predict which kids would continue to be autistic and which ones might grow out of the diagnosis.

"This doesn't mean that a child who has a co-illness is definitely going to change their diagnosis status," said Heather Close, one of the study's authors. "But we were able to establish some associations with different disorders."

Lori Warner, director of the HOPE Center for Autism at the Beaumont Children's Hospital Center in Royal Oak, Mich., said that kind of information could prove valuable to therapists studying and treating autistic children.

"We're always looking for anything that helps us potentially predict who's going to continue to have a diagnosis and who won't," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Regains Her Voice Thanks to ABC News Story

Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND) -- Betty Lou Trufant came down with a bad cold in 1982. She thought she just had laryngitis. She lost her voice, as so many people do. But the difference for Trufant is that she never got it back.

It affected every aspect of the 64-year-old Maine woman’s life.

“I avoided a lot of social contact with people,” she said.

“Growing up,” said Trufant’s daughter, Darcelle Jacobs, 37, “we had a two-level home and we actually had to have intercoms -- little intercoms in each room so you’d hear a beep and you’d have to press a button and say, ‘Yes.’ And Mom would call me down to dinner. … We’d have to communicate that way because she couldn’t yell up the stairs for me to hear.”

But almost 30 years later, after struggling to raise a daughter and maintain her marriage without a voice, Trufant saw a story on ABC’s World News that changed her life. The story featured a woman named Erin Martin who, like Trufant, lost her voice. She suffered for four months before seeking treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. With a miraculous massage of the throat, Martin got her voice back.

Trufant had accepted that she would communicate through gestures and facial expressions for the rest of her life. But she was finally given hope.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Trufant said. “I’m like, ‘Everybody be quiet, I need to hear this!’ And I only caught the last end of it. So I went online to make sure I could hear the whole thing. I think it was the next day I called Cleveland Clinic. I thought this might just be the thing I was waiting for. I was just blown away.”

She traveled from her hometown of Westbrook, Maine, to the Cleveland Clinic, where she saw Dr. Michael Benninger.

“In this particular case, it followed a respiratory tract infection,” Benninger said. “So we assume that the virus or something like that affected the nerve and the nerve never recovered.

“The problem is basically called vocal fold, or vocal cord paralysis,” Benninger added. “And it has to do with the motion of the vocal folds. Our vocal folds are apart when we breathe and they come together when we sing or speak. So that sound is produced when they come together. So you can think of it like one vocal fold not moving and the other one cannot get across to make that sound.”

It took more than a massage, but after an hour and 20 minutes in the operating room, Trufant regained her voice. To fix the problem, Benninger inserted an implant behind her vocal cord.

“We pushed the bad vocal fold to the midline so the other one could come across and have contact against it,” he said.

“I really feel blessed that this has happened to me,” Trufant said. “It’s just a blessing to get my voice back.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Functional Dysphonia: Vocal Cord Massage Brings Mom's Voice Back

ABC News(CLEVELAND) -- After coming down with a cold in May 2010, Erin Martin could only muster a whisper for weeks and then months.

"I woke up on a Sunday with a really bad sore throat," she said. "A week and a half went by and I didn't have a voice."

Three months later, the hairstylist who rarely found herself at a loss for words with clients was rendered voiceless. Martin of Wilmington, Del., said she thought she would never speak again -- that was until she visited Dr. Claudio Milstein at the Cleveland Clinic's Head and Neck Institute and was diagnosed with functional dysphonia, an abnormal tightening of the muscles around the voice box.

After 15 minutes of massaging and manipulating Martin's vocal cords, Milstein had the mother of four laughing -- and crying -- and speaking in her regular voice. Before she traveled to the Cleveland Clinic, Martin said the eight or so doctors she saw were perplexed by her condition.

"We weren't talking the same way we did," said husband Tom Martin. "It was like I wasn't married almost. A lot of things we did, we weren't doing together."

Erin said one day her brother and friend told her about a story they'd heard in the news.

"They called and said, 'You gotta listen to this woman. She sounds just like you,'" she said.

The woman in the news had functional dysphonia, in which the vocal cords get very tight and locked in position, making them unable to vibrate to produce sound. Martin said she was skeptical but made an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic and drove seven hours to get there on her birthday.

After five minutes of massage and manipulation, hints of her voice were starting to appear. Fifteen minutes later, Martin was laughing. "I am going to cry," she said.

"Usually in one intervention you can make a huge difference and improve their quality of life right away," Milstein said. "Sometimes I see patients that have had this condition for years and they are able to regain their voice in one session."

When Martin called home, her son didn't believe it was really her. "Are you sure it's not a prank call?" he said. "No, it's not a prank call. It's me," she responded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Examines the Characteristics of Persuasive Speech

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- The way someone speaks, the tone of their voice and cadence, can influence whether people pay attention and listen, or if they, in the case of phone interviews, hang up the receiver. 

In a University of Michigan study presented at a meeting for American Association for Public Opinion Research, authors analyzed over 1,300 phone calls to determine which interviewer speech characteristics led to successful recruitment of phone survey participants. 

The researchers found that those speaking either too fast or too slow were less successful, possibly because fast-talkers could be perceived as trying to "pull the wool over the eyes" and because slow talkers might be perceived as less intelligent. 

They also found that a marginal variation in vocal pitch was more effective because a large variation could be perceived as "trying too hard."  The authors also noted that male participants with high-pitch voices were less successful than their deep-voiced counterparts, while this did not seem to matter for female interviewers.

People who engaged in frequent, short pauses were more successful than those were perfectly fluent. The thought was that natural speech contains about four to five pauses per minute, and so, a lack of pauses might sound too scripted, and therefore not genuine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Study: Verbal Crutches May Help Kids Learn New Words

BananaStock/Thinkstock(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) -- When speaking with adults, liberally sprinkling "um" and "uh" during conversations can be quite distracting and may make the speaker seem less knowledgeable.

But the use of these verbal crutches when speaking to young children may actually help them learn new vocabulary, according to a new study published in Developmental Science Thursday.

Researchers at the University of Rochester found that children between 18 and 30 months old paid more attention to a new word if it was preceded by an "um" or an "uh," as in:  "Look at the, uh...," as opposed to "Look at the...."

The researchers think this could be because children may use the verbal fumble as a sign that a new word is coming.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Music Therapy Helps Gabrielle Giffords Find Voice After Shooting

Douglas Graham/Roll Call/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- It has been two months since the Tucson shooting spree that killed six people and injured 12, including Arizona Rep.Gabrielle Giffords.  Now Giffords, who survived a gunshot wound to the left hemisphere of her brain, is finding her voice through song.

"Gabby responds to music because she knows a lot of songs," said Maegan Morrow, Giffords' music therapist and a certified brain injury specialist at TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston.

Since Giffords was transferred to TIRR on Jan. 21, reports of her singing "Happy Birthday" for husband Mark Kelly and Don McLean's "American Pie" have signaled what some have called a miraculous recovery.

"The brain can heal itself if you do the right protocol," Morrow said.  "It just needs lots of repetition, lots of consistency."

Protocols like music speech stimulation and melodic intonation therapy can help patients with damage to the brain's communication center, like Giffords, learn to speak again.

"It's creating new pathways in the brain," Morrow said.  "Language isn't going to work anymore, so we have to go to another area and start singing and create a new pathway for speech."

Music therapy was first recognized as a tool to aid soldiers returning from World War II with brain injuries.

"It was discovered that music was more than a diversion or recreational activity -- it could be incorporated into the overall treatment of an individual," said Al Bumanis, director of communications for the American Music Therapy Association.  "It could address non-musical goals in a very unique way -- sometimes coming in through the backdoor where some therapies can't."

Indeed, a person who has suffered an injury due to stroke or trauma may have difficulty speaking but be able to sing.

"Patients can be essentially mute, unable to utter a single word but put on the Beatles' "All You Need is Love" and suddenly patients can sing.  Substitute some of the words and now patients are speaking again," said Dr. Michael De Georgia, director of the Centers for Neurocritical Care and Music and Medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.  "Music is very powerful."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Say Change in Voice Indicates Level of Fatigue

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) -- You might think a cup of coffee or a quick walk before heading to your job will cover up your exhaustion from long working hours and little sleep.  That is, until your co-worker outs you by saying, "You sound tired."

Although it's a common phrase used to describe someone who might sound lethargic, many researchers say a closer look into how someone sounds can reveal how dangerous a sleep-deprived person might be.

Researchers at a Pennsylvania State University psychology lab are going beyond what the human ear can detect to measure how changes in speech could detect sleepiness.  They found everything from voice inflection to letter pronunciation can indicate how tired you are and whether you may be better off sitting out of work than trying to stay productive.

In one study at the lab, researchers compared the speech of a small group of normal students with groups that were sleep deprived for 36 hours and 48 hours.  They found the longer the students stayed awake, the more likely the analysis showed dramatic changes in energy, speech patterns and pronunciation.

"Police" sounded more like "Bolice."  Higher energy letters such as T, P and K sounded more like D, B and G, respectively.

Some of the changes researchers found may be unclear to the normal human ear, said Cynthia LaJambe, a visiting scientist and sleep researcher at Pennsylvania State University.

"We don't know if [sounding tired] means there's a handful of precise speech indicators of sleepiness, or whether [a person is finding] some general change in speech," said LaJambe.

The lab's analysis found that a sleep-deprived voice can suggest anything from fatigue to exhaustion that can result in dangerous behavior.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio