The 2019 OSLA Voice Symposium

Written by: Julie Cohn / Treatment / June 2019

On Friday, June 7th, the Well Said team attended the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologist’s Voice Symposium.  

Throughout a day of colleagues speaking about the voice work they do in their respective clinics, we learned so much about current voice practice across all kinds of treatment centres. Here are some highlights of the speakers, what they shared, and what we learned!

The Working Alliance

Melissa James, Clinical Director, Speech-Language Pathologist

We started the day with an opening brief by Melissa James, founder of our clinic, who spoke about the relationship clients form with their clinicians which makes our clinical work possible.  The better the working alliance, the better the outcomes! How a client feels when they’re with their clinician is so important in achieving their goals.

Case Studies in Voice

Gwen Merrick, Speech-Language Pathologist, St. Michael’s Hospital

Gwen talked about the importance of asking “what” questions in assessment, such as, “What do I know?” (What does the SLP know from her training), “What do I hear and see?” (What the client’s voice is sounding like), “What do I think?” (What could be going on), “What do I do?” (What steps to take to help a client).  She then reviewed some case studies of interesting voice clients she’s encountered.

Client Self-Assessment

Gwen Merrick, Speech-Language Pathologist, St. Michael’s Hospital

Gwen later returned to the stage to discuss rating systems for clients to describe their own voice pathologies and talked about how to motivate clients to get the maximum benefit from their sessions.

How to Address Kids who Yell

Laurie Russell, Speech-Language Pathologist, SickKids

While this presentation was geared toward child-focused practice, and we see adults at Well Said, many of Laurie’s suggestions were still interesting in the context of adult work; suggestions such as keeping instructions simple so they are remembered, giving positive feedback (“Let’s use our quiet voice” vs. “Don’t yell”), offering substitutions like drinking water instead of coughing… these are strategies adults can benefit from too!

Hypersensitive Throats

Marta DeLuca, Speech-Language Pathologist, St. Michael’s Hospital

Marta talked to us about several case studies of her patients with Hypersensitivity, resulting in coughing, breathing difficulties, and/or the sensation something is in their throat when imaging has shown nothing is there.  She talked about ways to reduce tension, medical options, desensitization, and emotional support with which we can help our clients overcome hypersensitivity.

In-Office Procedures

Jennifer Anderson, ENT, Associate Professor at U of T, Director of Voice Disorders Clinic, Chief of ENT Department, St. Michael’s Hospital

Many voice problems are easily treatable with hydration, exercises, and relaxation; however, in some cases, there is a medical issue that requires (or used to require) surgery.  Jennifer talked about new and cutting edge in-office procedures for the treatment of these more serious voice issues without surgery. She reviewed different kinds of vocal fold lesions (abnormalities on the vocal cords), and talked about new ways to treat them using steroids or laser treatments.   

The Well Said Team of Speech-Language Pathologists

Case Studies

Natalia Evans, Speech-Language Pathologist, Voice Box

Natalia shared some cases from her clients with voice difficulties.  She shared different causes and results of voice problems, and talked about how she treated these issues. 

Exploration of a Perceptual Rating of Voice

Natalia Evans, Speech-Language Pathologist, Voice Box

Natalia later returned to review an assessment guide for voice disorders.  She led us through her assessment methods and suggested vocal qualities to listen for when forming a clinical opinion of a client’s voice issue(s).

Top 10 Resources for your Practice

Melanie Tapson, Speech-Language Pathologist, Professional Singer and Voice Over Artist, Singing Voice Specialist

Melanie led us through a high-energy exploration of websites, webinars, referral services, in-person training courses, text books, workbooks, apps, and high and low tech resources to support SLPs in their work.  

Capturing Objective Data

Melanie Tapson, Speech-Language Pathologist, Professional Singer and Voice Over Artist, Singing Voice Specialist

Melanie returned to talk about the importance of measurement when doing any kind of science – in this case, voice assessment and treatment.  She led us through several devices and programs SLPs may use in their practices to make sure data is objective and measurable.  We learned about different kinds of microphones, amplifiers, and other devices to suit a variety of voice therapy needs.

Phonomicrosurgery for Benign Vocal Fold Lesions

Jun Lin, ENT, St. Michael’s Hospital

Jun discussed a way of standardizing naming within the ENT community so that patient’s outcomes may be compared more objectively and easily.  She discussed the differences between different kinds of vocal fold lesions/nodules/polyps/cysts/masses and how to differentiate and treat them from an ENT perspective.  She also talked about pre- and post- surgical treatment via speech-language pathology and other disciplines (singing teachers, etc.).


To close out the day, the various speakers hosted a panel so the attendees could ask any questions. We learned more about specific therapy exercises for voice to implement in our own treatment sessions.

Overall, we learned many new things from the Symposium!  We always want to keep our knowledge current and fresh so we can bring our clients the best assessment and treatment.  Come see us if you have any voice concerns, and we can share our prior and new knowledge and experiences to help you achieve your best voice! 

You can book an initial consultation with us using the link below, or by calling (647) 795-5277.