These are words that once gave me intense anxiety. I grew up scanning chapters before I would volunteer to read aloud. I once asked to go to the bathroom, nearly hyperventilating, to avoid having to read the word conscience. Living with speech impediments creates a different perspective of words. They aren’t simply communication or even powerful, they are overwhelming and terrifying. You learn early on and quickly that there is a difference between just talking versus speaking and you seem incapable of harnessing that slight distinctness. Being confident in your voice isn’t always about what you have to say; it is also about your physical ability to say the things you want or need to.
When I was in first grade I began speech therapy with an incredible pathologist provided through my school named Olga Pollock. To say this woman changed my life is an understatement. I remember feeling so singled out at having to leave class but also how much her room was a haven of safety. I could mess up there and no one would laugh or make fun of me. I can’t put into words how powerful that was for me or how it changed my relationship with oral language. She, with her therapy and patience, helped me find my voice.
When I grew up (not a terribly long ago time) most children were identified for speech therapy during elementary and services were through the school. This can make therapy more difficult because habits have already been formed for years. I was in therapy for three years and then occasionally after when I regressed a bit. I still have to be completely conscious of my enunciation when I speak (which I do, in front of various types of groups, and often).
As wonderful as Ms. Pollock was, I would cry at the poems and exercises I had to do every week at school and at home because it was so difficult. My poor mother worked with me tirelessly.
The beauty, however, today is that with early detection children don’t have to struggle like I did/do. If your child is behind in speaking or is already showing signs of difficulty in some way it is true that they very well may grow out of it, but they also may not. Speech impediments are not your fault or your child’s. But not doing anything can be a risk. Getting your child evaluated by a speech pathologist is never a bad idea, because the sooner they step in if needed the easier it will be for your child. Don’t let a child be silenced by ability when they can be empowered instead.