When my wife was little she had trouble, like a lot of kids, making some sounds. For her, the elusive letter R was the worst, and up until 4th or 5th grade, she was a 'Wascally Wabbit' kid. She was given speech classes and finally learned to make that special sound though, and it never had any impact on her reading or spelling abilities (although to this day, Grandma can't roll her R's and so some Spanish words are beyond her.)
Our second oldest granddaughter, Lexi, has always had some difficulty getting her mouth to make certain sounds. She has one of the oldest souls among my branches of our family tree, and her inability to make herself understood by some people has often made her quite frustrated.
Grandpa The Translator
As she grew throughout her preschool years, it seemed that for some reason, I understood Lexi-ese better than most, and was often called to translate for others. Somehow I knew that 'Mawn, peets' would only be satisfied with a glass of cold milk, and a 'boo-day poddy' was a cause for celebration. The times that even I would scratch my head in consternation when trying to decipher her words were thankfully few, because when even Dampa couldn't get it, it sometimes brought her to tears.
This year, she is in first grade, and since she still has some trouble being understood by teachers (bad) and other kids (even worse), they had her tested for speech classes. Thankfully, she qualified for free therapy, since my daughter works hard, but is far from rich. She will receive up to two years of speech lessons, from someone trained to help her recreate the sounds that make up our language.
One of the worst things about having speech troubles is the standardized testing that her school does in first grade. Because the reading scores are based on sounds, she was scoring extremely low. Now, thanks to a caring teacher and her speech classes, she will stop being judged on her ability to form difficult sounds with her mouth. She is an awesome little reader already, and it's not right to punish her for a minor lacking in this purely physical motor skill.
Children in school can be cruel sometimes, and even when it's not intentional, teasing hurts. So do assumptions made by people about a child's intelligence, motivation and skill, based on their ability to fluently and clearly communicate their ideas, thoughts and desires. Having a child (or grandchild) with a speech impediment is not the result of their being lazy, stupid or mentally challenged in any way. Often, even well-meaning friends and relatives can make careless, hurtful remarks that can lead to even worse frustration and pain for a child who already is having trouble being understood.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Like any other skill, making sounds can be learned, with lots of encouragement, love and practice. This summer, Lexi and I practiced making silly sounds together, and she did make some improvements. I think it is awesome that now she is getting help from a professional therapist.
Soon, she'll be enunciating like a pro, and will leave behind the days of frustration at not being able to make herself understood. We all know that it won't put and end to life's challenges, but it will make it easier for her to express her ideas and desires, and share her fears and joy with others.
I just hope that as she makes this journey to better speech skills, she keeps in mind that to her Dampa, she'll always be a 'boo-da-foo wi-dew pin-dess', and along with all of my grandchildren, will always have an enduring and selfless love that comes straight
From Grandpa's Heart ...