The curly headed four year old sat attentively eating apple pieces at the granite counter as her mother cooked.
The child swiveled her stool and looked over to the opposite edge of the counter where a gray shirt sat folded.
A rambling of odd sounds flowed from her mouth, ” ih tah ti tee tuh?”
The questioning tone caught her mother’s attention, ” What?” she calmly replied.
” ih tah ti tee tuh?” The little girls eyes shifted to the counter edge and the mother’s eyes followed.
“What are you asking me, honey?”
The sounds became frustrated and her body language took on hints of a game of charades. Pointing animatedly at the corner she repeated the sounds once more, ” ih” “tah” “ti” “tee” “tuh?” The child accentuated each sound emphatically with the hope that she would finally be understood. She was but not from the ‘words’ she was speaking but through her gestures.
“Oh!” her mother exclaimed. “Is that Kai’s Tee shirt?”
The child sighed with relief and popped another apple wedge into her mouth.
Houston, we have a problem
This was the exact conversation I had with my daughter, Meg, When she was just shy of turning four years old. An unintelligible child of her age can be disconcerting in the least.
This incident was the catalyst for several doctor appointments. The first was to our family doctor. He quickly ruled out an intellectual delay when he asked if she could draw him a face. Meg took the pencil drew a circle then drew two dots at the bottom of her circle, a dot in the middle then at the top was a curved line. It only took us a second to realize that she had drawn the face upside down so it would be facing the doctor. Genius four year old.
Get a professional opinion
First, our family doctor sent us to an audiologist to make sure she was hearing properly. Meg left with a clean bill of auditory health. Next, a geneticist was called in because she had an interesting discoloration on her iris and a pectus Excavatum , simply meaning she was a four year old with cleavage due to the way her rib cage inverted. That appointment didn’t give us any answers. Finally, it was determined that she had a very severe speech impediment.
Best choice ever
Meg ended up at the local primary school sitting in front of the dearest woman, Ms. Liddle, who was to become Meg’s speech savior. We learned that Meg ‘fronted’ all of her words. This means she only made sounds that could be formed by placing her tongue toward the front of her mouth but she never used ending consonants or multiple syllable words. For example, she called her brother, Ethan, “eh” because the only sound she would attempt was the second syllable in his name, and of course she didn’t say the ‘n’ sound yet.
By the end of the school year Meg was making all of the appropriate sounds and saying her words appropriately, syllables and all. In the midst of this whole ordeal several people questioned why I was going to the trouble. They were convinced she would outgrow it. This may have been true but there were several factors that caused me to put her in speech therapy.
3 reasons why you should consider speech therapy for a child with a speech impediment.
- For starters, THEY DESERVE TO BE UNDERSTOOD. How does it feel when you think you are not being heard? Without a doubt you feel frustration, anger and may act out rudely, right? In the same way, a child wants to be heard because they have important things to say. Thankfully, speech therapy gave Meg the ability to make her growing thoughts known. And it made her a happier child.
- In addition , A SPEECH IMPEDIMENT IS A MAGNET FOR BULLIES. Nobody wants to be the butt of somebody’s joke. Speech therapy gave mean kids one less thing they could use to try to make my child feel inferior. Meg’s confidence grew as her ability to communicate grew.
- Ultimately, IT OPENS UP A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITIES. Who would have believed that a little girl whose speech was unintelligible would only a few years latter be staring in community theater productions? She plays supporting and lead characters like Horton the Elephant in Seussical Jr, Peter Pan in the musical of the same name, and Marion the librarian in The Music Man. She has confidence that her lines are understood because she was taught how to be understood.
If you have a child with a speech impediment and you are wondering if they need help I encourage you to look into it. Here’s the point, your child deserves to be understood and have the advantages that come with being able to communicate effectively. This year Meg is sixteen and is dual enrolled at our local community college. One of her classes is public speaking. Her first speech is an informative speech. She told me she was going to do it on how speech therapy can change a person’s life. Yep, speech therapy was definitely worth it.
Thanks for reading.
Until Next Time…