After suffering an asthma attack in 2004, 11-year-old Dinaste Allen could barely speak for two years. Her mother, Denise Allen, sought treatment for Dinaste. She was diagnosed with muscle tension dysphonia, a condition where the vocal cords are so tense they will not vibrate.
Dinaste was completely unresponsive to treatment. She was eventually referred to a psychiatrist. “They thought it was all in her mind,” Denise Allen said.
After a frustrating year and a half, Dinaste was referred to Joseph Stemple, a communication disorders specialist at the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences. Allen, a single mother of three children, was concerned for her daughter’s well-being and moved the family from Ohio to Lexington to be near Stemple and the University of Kentucky. “Dinaste didn’t think she was ever going to get better,” Allen said.
After receiving six therapy sessions from Stemple and Bridgett Williams, a UK speech-language pathologist, Dinaste is now able to speak.
But recovery did not come easily. “The voice box is a very complicated instrument,” Stemple said. “There are 13 phonation muscles in the voice box, and all muscles have to work together properly in order for the voice to be normal. Dinaste had been using her voice improperly for over two years and we had to break the pattern of inappropriate muscle patterns activity and reintroduce the appropriate muscle patterns.”
For Dinaste, how it happened doesn’t really matter. What matters now is that she has regained her voice in the world.
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