Type of Resources
The human voice is an important tool of expression and a defining quality of self. Additionally, many occupations require, at least in part, a functioning voice for job completion (Titze et al., 1997). It is not surprising, then, that a dysfunctional voice may be disruptive and have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life. Unfortunately, disorders of voice are common, and perhaps even more so than many may realize (Bhattacharyya, 2014; Hartley et al., 2016; Roy, 2003; Roy et al., 2005). Several voice disorders, however, are preventable through the very same vocal health education means used in voice rehabilitation (ASHA, n.d.; Pannbacker, 1998; Van Houtte et al., 2011). This invites the question: why not deliver vocal health education to the populace as a means of preventing these disorders? General wellness and primary prevention education in the United States occurs, at least in part, in the schools. National Health Education Standards (NHES), developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and used as reference for health education in many states, include the knowledge of concepts which promote health and prevent disease (Joint Committee on National Health Education Standards, 2007). Vocal health education may be a significant health concept covered in schools. Established at an early age and carried into adulthood, habits which promote a functioning voice may save many the disruption and discomfort of future, preventable voice disorders. This research surveys school-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and speech-language pathology assistants on current practices and attitudes surrounding vocal health education in the school curriculum. These speech and language professionals are primary voice specialists in the schools, may have insight into vocal heath in the curriculum, and are therefore important groups to survey for this research. Descriptive data analysis of 115 responses to the researcher-created Vocal Health Education Questionnaire provides insight into the thoughts and feelings of these voice professionals on the inclusion of vocal health in the school curriculum. Results show most respondents (97.4%) report vocal health is not currently included in schools in which they work. Attitude statements measured via Likert-type responses indicated respondents understand the benefits of vocal health education but also find multiple barriers to its inclusion in the schools at this time. These coupled with responses to the open-ended “Additional thoughts about the inclusion of vocal health in the schools” further indicated that schools either would not or could not include vocal health in the schools due to time or further resource constraints, other priorities in the schools such as academic standards or other curriculum requirements, and a belief that voice health is not significant for students. The findings have implications for SLPs and other vocal health professionals. A program of this kind may indeed reduce the number of speakers suffering from voice disorders yet may face numerous challenges in implementation. This study contributes to research which supports primary prevention education for vocal health by discovering some of the possible obstacles to including such a program in the school curriculum and provides suggestions for future research.
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