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A watercolor abstraction of the lungs

Relax, Take A Breath: The Basics of Respiration

Good evening!

There are so many topics I cannot wait to address! Before we get too deep into complex discussions of speech and hearing sciences, however, we need to establish a common base of knowledge to draw from later on. Therefore, several upcoming posts will address the basics of speech sound production!

Speech production is something many of us do every day. Whether it’s for one’s job or socialization, so much of our society is built around the voice. But how many of us can say we understand how the production of speech works beyond the basics? Why do we breathe in before we talk? What happens in the throat that makes the air vibrate? How does the passage through the mouth and nose shape and change the sound? And how does the human brain coordinate and execute the complex sequence of muscle contractions that results in the movement of teeth, tongue, lips and much more, to articulate speech?

If these are questions you're interested in exploring, this is the article for you!

A Respiration Explanation

The beginning step of producing the voice is respiration, or the act of breathing. Breathing in is referred to as inhalation or inspiration; breathing out is known as exhalation or expiration. This takes place in the lungs. The lungs reside in the thoracic cavity, along with the heart, esophagus, trachea, bronchi, and other important structures. The thoracic cavity is protected by the ribs and the surrounding musculature.

Respiration Simulation

Major Muscles of Inhalation


Intercostal Muscles

How Inhalation Works

During inhalation, the diaphragm contracts, expanding the thoracic cavity by pushing our abdominal cavity organs down and out. The lungs expand to fill the empty space, which results in a pressure drop in our lungs. Due to the pressure difference between our lungs and our surrounding environment, air rushes in to fill the space (this is known as Boyle’s Law). The air travels into the lungs and reaches the alveoli, which transfer the oxygen to the blood in exchange for carbon dioxide.

How Exhalation Works

Thanks to the heat our bodies produce, the air in our lungs begins to increase in temperature. As the air heats up, it expands and the pressure in our lungs increases (this is known as Charles’ Law. The lungs also begin to decrease in size due to wanting to return to a resting position (or elasticity), which increases the pressure as well. At this point, the air in our lungs is at a greater pressure than the pressure in our environment. Thanks again to Boyle’s Law, the air rushes back out of the body and out into the environment.

Do-It-Yourself: Breathing Cycles

Tidal Breathing: Breathe in and out as calmly as you do when you're at rest, feeling the muscles activate when you breathe in, and how no force is needed to breathe out. Time how long it takes you to breathe in, and how long it takes to breathe out. The rates of inhalation and exhalation should be roughly the same (with maybe a nod towards longer exhalation).

Speech Breathing: The next time you speak to someone, pay attention to how different the inhalation and exhalation feel when compared to life breathing.

The takeaway: Tidal breathing (usually) feels different than breathing for speech. Tidal breathing is a cycle of roughly 40% inhalation and 60% exhalation, and the exhalation is passive, meaning no muscles are activated to do it. However, when breathing for speech, the cycle is roughly 10% inhalation and 90% exhalation!

DO Try This At Home!

By gently activating the muscles of inhalation alongside other muscles, such as the inner layers of intercostal muscles, one slows down how quickly air exits the lungs to a rate we can use for speech. This slower air travels up the trachea and through the larynx. It is here that the next stage of speech production occurs: phonation! We'll talk more about this next step in a later post. For now, let me know if you have any questions about breathing that were not answered in this post!

Take care,

Kevin Dorman, MS, CCC-SLP

Owner and Speech-Language Pathologist
(336) 609-6258

What IS a Speech-Language Pathologist?

The term ‘speech-language pathology’ is an unwieldy one. When I introduce myself as a speech-language pathologist, very few people in the general public have even heard of the profession. This is hardly their fault; speech-language pathologists use a variety of different titles and job descriptions when referring to themselves. Speech teacher; speech therapist; speech teacher; speech pathologist; voice therapist; voice coach; accent coach; the list goes on and on. When there are so many informal variations, it’s no wonder that people are unsure of what our profession is!

Let’s begin our discussion by defining the term ‘speech-language pathology’.

Speech-language pathology: the field of study involving the detection, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of speech, language, voice, swallowing, fluency, and cognition-related disorders.

Wow, what a long list of words! Put in more reader-friendly terms: speech-language pathologists work with those who are unsatisfied with their communicative abilities. In graduate school, burgeoning speech-language pathologists are given in-depth instruction in all subjects listed and beyond in order to prepare them for employment possibilities in a wide variety of settings. The primary employers of SLPs are hospitals; outpatient clinics; school districts; skilled nursing facilities; and ear, nose, and throat clinics. We use our diverse skill set to work with clients whose quality of life is currently lower than average due to difficulties with any of the domains listed in the base definition above.
The ‘quality of life’ component is an important one, as not everyone who has a communication disorder, delay or difference feels negatively impacted by their atypical communication style. If someone doesn’t feel that their communication style hurts their quality of life, then seeing a speech-language pathologist may not be necessary.

With so many areas of communication (and swallowing) and populations to work with and specialize in, it’s no surprise the branding of the field is so vague. Another contributing factor to this difficulty is the lack of public knowledge regarding just how complicated communication (and swallowing) is! Do you know the difference between speech and voice? Language and fluency? Let’s address these terms before we proceed. The following is a basic overview of each of these concepts:

The Articulators
(Verbal) Language
The Sub-Domains of Language
Non-Verbal Language
Secondary Behaviors

There is so much more to say about all of these areas; unfortunately, I am out of time. I must begin packing for my adventure to Philadelphia for the 47th Annual Voice Foundation Symposium! Next week, I’ll discuss my time at the symposium and everything I learned there. I hope you enjoyed my brief overview of what speech-language pathology is and who we work with! As always, leave any questions or comments and I will do my best to respond in a timely fashion. Thank you for reading!
Have a great night,
Kevin Dorman, MS, CCC-SLP

Kevin at their wedding, April 1st, 2017

An Introduction (01)


My name is Kevin Dorman (they/them/their) and I’m the owner and sole practitioner of Prismatic Speech Services. I am a state licensed speech-language pathologist, and a member of both the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). On this page, I’ll be posting informational articles on a variety of subjects, including the mechanics of speech production, child speech and language development, transgender vocal training, Greensboro events, and LGBTQ+ advocacy, as well as answering questions sent in by guests and clients who want my opinion on a certain subject.

For this first post, however, I wanted to give you a small introduction to who I am, so you know whose perspective it is you’re reading. I’m not a fan of “emotionless fact listing” as a blogging format, as emotion and empathy are vast components of the work we do here at Prismatic Speech Services. Too often, I feel speech-language pathologists and other healthcare professionals can come across as impersonal and withdrawn from discussing themselves, which only undermines the pursuit of building a trusting, equal relationship between clinician and client. Receiving speech/language intervention (trans vocal training in particular) can be such a vulnerable position to be in. If I ask that of my clients in our sessions the least I can do is return the favor, and during a session is hardly the time to do so!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a passion for voice, and this passion has changed and evolved over time as much as I have. When my brother and I were younger, we both worked endlessly on developing an ear for unique voices and replicating them ourselves. My vocal flexibility and range improved as I got older and began stage acting in school and voice acting for animated shorts made by burgeoning animators. I joined an auditioned choir as well as an a capella group as a beatboxing and auxiliary specialist. I figured out that I was bisexual during my senior year, which helped answer a lot of unasked questions I had.

During my undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, I began seeking a more practical application for my vocal prowess. It was my high school theater teacher who encouraged me to investigate speech-language pathology. Upon taking an introductory course, I was head over heels for the field! I had never experienced a science that gripped me as speech-language pathology had – I knew I had to pursue it.

It was at this time that my gender identity began to manifest. I conferred with a close friend of mine, and eventually emerged as the proud non-binary bisexual person you can meet today. This friend would in time become my boyfriend, and more recently, my husband (April 1st, 2017!) Through my Deaf Studies classes and new friendships, I began learning about oppression and intersectional feminism, which greatly influence my approach to life and my career. I left UNCG in May of 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology and a Minor in American Sign Language/Deaf Studies.

In my graduate study of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Western Carolina University, I began learning about transgender vocal training, and pursued a specialization in the niche area by seeking experience in voice disorders. I attended conferences, seminars, and workshops centered around the voice. In my clinical practicum (and post-graduate clinical fellowship), I gained experience in a diverse range of speech-language pathology settings, including interning and working in elementary schools, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient rehabilitation clinics, and hospitals. I worked with many clients with voice disorders and motor speech disorders, such as apraxia of speech, myasthenia gravis, and multiple presentations of dysarthria, to name a few. This implanted in me a multiplicity of skilled intervention techniques and a love of working with a variety of clients. 

In April 2016, I began planning the launch of my private practice to serve the underserved in North Carolina. A full year later, I am proud to say that my efforts have paid off and Prismatic Speech Services is open for business! This does not mean that my learning is finished; speech-language pathology is a field of constant evolution as new research is published and applied to my clinical practice. I am constantly working to improve my clinical skills and bag of tricks, and view every client as a unique opportunity to learn.

If you are interested in receiving services yourself or procuring them for your child or other dependent, do not hesitate to book a free consultation or an assessment! If you are a professional interested in adding me to your referral network, please call Prismatic Speech Services.


I hope to hear from you soon,

Kevin Dorman