Correcting a Lisp: Why Experts are Overrated
My six year old has a frontal lisp when pronouncing words with S or Z. I did a little research on how to correct the problem and I discovered that the information available pretty much all involves therapy. Well, call me old fashioned, or modern, or whatever really, but I don’t like therapy for anything apart from major mental problems (reference Charles Manson). Of course, I would have seen a therapist if my attempts at self correction were a complete failure. So far the results have been pretty good. Guess what? It didn’t take a bazillion dollars either. All it has taken so far is to stop the boy whenever he says an S, go over the word slowly, have him watch me say it, and repeat ’till success has been achieved. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t serious cases of speech problems that I could solve. Neil’s problem was far from serious. It reminds me of the time I went to a doctor for a calcium growth under the skin on my pinky toe. The doctor said there was nothing he could do about it. I went home that day, heated up a knife, and I cut that sucker right out by myself. I’ve got a picture of the big bloody hole to prove it. I’ll see a doctor when I need my spleen taken out. Otherwise doctors, and experts in general, don’t know me as well as I know me.
The Bad Habit
Neil has had a lisp for as long as he’s been speaking. I thought it was just a natural baby sort of thing so I didn’t do anything about it, at first. But, because I’m an observant parent, I paid attention to his peers and discovered that very few of them have lisps. Hmmm, I thought to myself. It’s time to do something about this. Anybody who reads this blog regularly knows that I homeschool my kids. That made it easy to incorporate some homemade speech therapy into our lessons. Of course, I’m not a professional so I probably didn’t use the approved methods, but I think experts are overrated anyway. My feeling is that the lisp is nothing more than a bad habit. Runners develop all sorts of bad habits when they learn to run. That’s why so few people can run fast in a straight line. I have a friend who couldn’t swim until he got into high school. Did he take lessons? Nope. He got a book on swimming from the library and read it, then he jumped in the pool and almost drowned. Then he tried it again, and again, until he stopped almost drowning and started swimming. So why not try it with the lisp?
Demosthenes, the famous Greek orator, had a speech impediment. He had a variety of problems including stuttering and a weak voice. I don’t know if he also had a lisp but he was, at least in the beginning, a rather inarticulate guy. He overcame his problems by what amounts to self medication (because professionals were probably just as useless back in those days as they are now). He went down to the ocean, stuffed his mouth with pebbles, and tried to talk over the waves and wind. The rocks made him speak clearly and the wind and waves forced him to project his voice. He also practiced in front of a mirror. And, the only reason we remember him is because of his oration skills. Go figure. Neil and I aren’t quite that extreme, but we do practice speaking over the television. We practice projecting our voices without yelling. I made a list of about 50 S words that we have been working on; he’ll stand in front of our mirror and say the words with me watching him. We’ve been doing it for a week and a half. The boy is just about cured of his lisp.
Again, if his speech impediment were anything approaching the severity of Daffy Duck or Barney Frank then I’d certainly seek professional help. There are so many problems that we can deal with ourselves. Most experts are a waste of time and money. Our intuition is normally spot on. When I was a kid one of my favorite activities was hitting a tennis ball against a backboard for hours and hours at a time. I got good at tennis not from having coaches; I got good at it because my intuition told me to practice hitting a ball against a wall until I never missed. The lisp is the same way. My intuition tells me that the way to cure a lisp is to practice until every S comes out perfect. I really think it’s that simple. We have to ask ourselves, “How did people like Demosthenes overcome their problems before modern medicine and therapy?” The answer is that they took matters into their own hands and figured it out themselves. Maybe it wasn’t a perfect way to do it, but it was at least self reliant. I’m a fan of self reliance.