CSD Department Researchers Identify Tool to Help Transgender Women Have a More Authentic Voice

Researchers in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders identified visual-acoustic biofeedback as a new tool to assist in voice modification therapy for transgender women. The research, which appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Voice, identifies a new avenue for this technology as a tool to help trans women find a voice that matches their gender identity.

“Our voices are so much a part of who we are,” said Deanna Kawitzky, the study’s lead author, who conducted the research as a student in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. “For transgender women, it can be really challenging to find a voice that matches how they choose to present their gender identity. This study suggests that biofeedback may be used as a tool to help trans women achieve a voice they are comfortable with. Biofeedback has not been used in this way before, and we’re excited to have identified a new direction for transgender voice therapy research.”

Understanding Biofeedback
In biofeedback, bodily functions are electronically monitored and visually displayed to help someone achieve more voluntary control of that function. Although usually used to measure functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, or skin temperature, biofeedback can also be used to visualize speech and has thus become a tool for individuals seeking to change their voice or articulation patterns.

How it Works
In visual-acoustic biofeedback, the learner speaks into a microphone and views a real-time representation of the acoustic signal of speech on a monitor—in this case, the resonant frequencies of the vocal tract. These frequencies signal the differences between sounds, such as “ah” versus “ee,” but also differ across male and female speakers. In the present study, transgender female participants were provided with targets representing resonant frequencies that are typical for cisgender female speakers. They produced words while viewing the biofeedback display and were encouraged to adjust their speech until their resonant frequencies lined up with these targets. Participants were able to make a significant shift in their resonant frequencies in response to the biofeedback targets. In addition, words that were produced with higher resonant frequencies were rated “more feminine” by blinded listeners.

This research was conducted in the Biofeedback Intervention Technology for Speech Lab (BITS Lab). The lab is led by the study’s co-author and Associate Professor of CSD Tara McAllister.

“Many people want to change the way they speak—whether they have a speech disorder, or speak English as a second language, or are seeking to achieve speech that better matches their gender identity,” said McAllister. “However, our speech patterns are deeply ingrained over years of experience, so change can be extremely difficult. Research in BITS lab aims to understand how technology can help people make these changes in a quick and lasting way.”

The research offers a preliminary suggestion that biofeedback could also be a useful tool in voice modification therapy for trans men and the trans community more generally.

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Dr. Sonja Molfenter Publishes New Study in Dysphagia

As adults age, they all experience a natural loss of muscle mass and function. A new study published in Dysphagia by Assistant Professor Sonja M. Molfenter finds that as the loss of muscle and function in the throat occurs it becomes more difficult for efficient constriction to occur while swallowing – which leads to an increased chance of food and liquids being left over in the throat. The study helps explain why15 percent of seniors experience dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

Among other health issues, swallowing difficulties can lead to malnutrition, dehydration and pneumonia – from food and drinks being misdirected into the lungs. Swallowing difficulties can also have a financial impact. Other studies have demonstrated that when patients with dysphagia are admitted to the hospital, they normally experience a 40 percent longer length-of-stay than those without dysphagia – estimated to cost $547,000,000 per year.

Molfenter and her colleagues noted that dysphagia in older adults is particularly relevant as the proportion of seniors in the United States is projected to increase to over 20 percent by 2030.

“Dysphagia has serious consequences for health and quality of life,” said Molfenter, the study’s lead author. “This research establishes the need for exercise programs for older adults that target throat muscles just like those that target the muscles of the arms, legs and other parts of the human body.”

Charles Lenell also of NYU and Cathy L. Lazarus of Mount Sinai Beth Israel and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai contributed to this study.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

 

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Dr. Christina Reuterskiold Wins NYU Steinhardt Teaching Excellence Award

We are proud to announce that Department Chair and Associate Professor Christina Reuterskiold was awarded an NYU Steinhardt Teaching Excellence Award for the 2017-2018 school year.

The Teaching Excellence Award is given to full-time faculty members in The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development who demonstrate teaching excellence. Award winners receive a specially designed certificate and a monetary award.

Congratulations, Dr. Reuterskiold!

 

CSD Students Win ASHA Research Award

Congratulations to CSD students Samantha Ayala and Laine Cialdella, who were recently awarded the 2018 Students Preparing for Academic-Research Careers (SPARC) Award by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA)’s Academic Affairs and Research Education team.

The SPARC Award Program is part of ASHA’s strategic objective to enhance the generation, and eventual implementation of, clinical research. The goal of SPARC is to foster students’ interest in the pursuit of PhD education and careers in academia.

Both Samantha and Laine are mentored by Associate Professor Tara McAllister.

Award Recipient Laine Cialdella

Award Recipient Samantha Ayala

Department of Communicative Science and Disorders Graduation Award Winners

We are delighted to announce the below student award winners for the 2017-2018 academic year. Congratulations to all the winners, and to all students graduating from the department.

BS IN COMMUNICATIVE SCIENCES AND DISORDERS

Spring 2018

Excellence in Academics Nicole Candiotti
Excellence in Research Grace Tsang
Excellence in Service Gretchen Go
ARC: Excellence in Academics, Research, and Clinical Skills Samantha Ayala

MS IN COMMUNICATIVE SCIENCES AND DISORDERS

Fall 2017 
 
Academic Excellence Gabriella Magid
Clinical Excellence Bianca Rammairone and Melyssa Weller
Research Recognition Erica Herzberg
ARC: Excellence in Academics, Research, and Clinical Skills Samantha Siminerio
Outstanding Professionalism Kacie McGoldrick
Outstanding Service Elizabeth Otterbein

 

Spring 2018
 
ARC: Excellence in Academics, Research, and Clinical Skills Diana Gherlone
Academic Excellence Erin Clancy
Clinical Excellence Corrine Ryklin
Outstanding Professionalism Esther Pak
 
Summer 2018
 
Excellence in Research Ashley Quinto
ARC: Excellence in Academics, Research, and Clinical Skills Christine Cedeno
Outstanding Service Elizabeth Francis
Outstanding Professionalism Vittoria Frustaci
Clinical Excellence Emily Capazzi
Academic Excellence Julia Gassert

PhD Student Joanne Li Wins Student Research Award

Photo of Joanne LiJoanne (Jingwen) Li, current PhD student in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at NYU Steinhardt, was recently awarded the Student Research Award for the Conference on Motor Speech for her platform presentation titled “Do individual differences predict learning outcomes in biofeedback training?”.

Joanne’s research focuses on bilingual language development and disorders, speech motor control, and speech prosody. She is currently working on her first qualification project, which is about perception and production of English lexical stress by Cantonese and Mandarin learners of English.

CSD Spring 2018 Colloquium Series Schedule

Please join the department for our upcoming Spring 2018 Colloquium series.

All talks will take place at 665 Broadway, 9th floor conference room from 1:45pm – 3:15pm.

 

Tuesday,February 6th, 2018
Title: Breaking into language in infancy: Finding structure in patterned input
Presented by Dr. Casey Lew-Williams
Princeton University
Department of Psychology

 

Tuesday March 6th, 2018
Title: Effects of bilingualism on cognitive control and novel word learning
Presented by Vishnu KK Nair
New York University
Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders

 

Tuesday March 26th, 2018
Title: Cultural and clinical considerations for serving a gender-diverse population
Presented by Adrienne Hancock, PhD
George Washington University
Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders

Tuesday April 10th, 2018
Title: Visualizing speech: Using ultrasound to reveal covert errors in children with speech disorders
Presented by Dr. Joanne Cleland
University of Strathclyde, Scotland
Department of Speech & Language Therapy

Tuesday May 1st, 2018
Title: What can birds and mice tell us about human speech?
Presented by Michael A. Long, PhD
NYU School of Medicine
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
Department of Neuroscience and Physiology

Alum Spotlight: Dr. Belinda Daughrity

Dr. Belinda DaughrityWe are delighted to congratulate Dr. Belinda Daughrity on her new position as a tenure track assistant professor in the department of Speech-Language Pathology at California State University, Long Beach.

Dr. Daughrity completed her B.A. in English and Spanish at Spelman College, her M.A. in speech-language pathology and audiology in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at NYU Steinhardt, and her Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Human Development and Psychology at UCLA. Her research interests include social skills and parent involvement in children with autism spectrum disorders, as well as barriers to early access to diagnosis and treatment of autism in communities of color.

We spoke with Dr. Daughrity about her background, her time at NYU, and her advice for students looking to break into the field.

Where are you originally from, and what brought you to NYU? 

I’m originally from Los Angeles, CA.  I chose NYU Steinhardt’s CSD department for my master’s study because I was impressed by the program’s rigor and the diversity of opportunities available for research and practicum opportunities.

How has your experience at NYU Steinhardt prepared you for your current role as Assistant Professor?

My experience at NYU Steinhardt was critical in helping me to prepare for my current role as an Assistant Professor. I learned firsthand how to balance teaching responsibilities and student mentoring with ongoing research work. At NYU, I saw prime examples of the type of role I wanted to play as a professor. I wanted to conduct scholarly research while being an excellent professor to help mentor the next generation of speech-language pathologists.

What was the focus of your research here at NYU? Which faculty members did you work with? 

I worked with Dr. Reuterskiold and Dr. Sidtis on a research study on how typically developing children learn idioms via incidental learning. It was my first introduction to research. They saw my potential and gave me more responsibility on the project and later included me as an author on the finished poster session at the annual ASHA convention.

What advice would you give to current students that are preparing to enter this profession? 

I would advise students to take time to build relationships with professors outside of class. Get involved in their research, get to know them, and take advantage of unique opportunities.