Got Those Speech Therapy Blues

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, child and outdoorRecently I've had a few people ask me about my feelings towards speech therapy.

I can't just pinpoint it onto one specific emotion though.

My feelings towards speech therapy changed over time. My feelings were dynamic, as anyone's would be after 12-13 years of attending speech therapy.

In Elementary School, in the early days in particular, I enjoyed attending speech therapy. I was dismissed from class, which I thought was cool, to go play games with an old lady named Ms. Weinstein and sometimes I'd get a prize at the end.

All I had to do was say a few words, she'd correct me, but I got to play games and win little prizes. What kid wouldn't like that, right?

Even after school, I'd go to CSUN and privately meet with a speech pathologist, where it was the same thing. We'd play a game, I'd say words, and get a high-five or maybe candy afterwards.

In 4th or 3rd grade, my feelings started to change. The change in emotions was due to realizing that I spoke differently and that I wasn't at speech therapy just for fun and games, but because I was different from the other 'typical' kids. My younger sister made me aware of my unique speech, but I discussed that previously, here.

When I started to realize that speech therapy was in fact in existence to resolve my "funny accent," I didn't necessarily get angry. However, I did become more aware. For example, after my CSUN sessions, I paid closer attention to the brief conversations that my parents and the pathologist would have-rather than just running away to play with toys.

Come Middle School though, I'd say my frustration began to boil. Granted though, just imagine being a pre-teen girl with angst and hormones, it doesn't take much to get frustrated. For the women reading this, you should know.

Middle School I knew that speech therapy was lame and that popular kids didn't go to speech therapy. I actually knew that it was rare to attend and I knew that I wanted to keep it a secret-that's how much I was embarrassed about it.

I was honestly more embarrassed about attending Speech Therapy than I was about my funny accent. I was awkward, but comfortable in cheerleading, choir, and yelling in front of a large group of people at Girl Scout events.

However, I did have an issue when people found out and said, "Alyson, you go to speech therapy?"

Sounded like nails on a chalkboard to me. The mere connotation of 'speech therapy' was alarming.

Perhaps as a pre-teen, I didn't like speech therapy because of what it insinuated- I'm special, I need help, I'm not smart, I'm slow.

This is what ran through my middle school mind.

However, with the help of hindsight now, I also realize that speech therapy did not really grow with me. It wasn't geared towards my age, my maturity, nor my interests. It wasn't dynamic; the same exercises, games, and reminders given to me at 13 were the same given to me when I was 7. Frankly, I recognized what kids aren't supposed to know about speech therapy, because if they knew they wouldn't like going.

Middle school speech therapy consisted of the same tactics utilized in Elementary School. They'd pull out an ancient board game- Connect 4, Chutes and Ladders, and Sorry were quite popular- and the pathologist would have us say a word, a sentence, or a sound at each turn.

By this point I had gone through maybe 11 years of speech therapy, I pretty much knew they'd use the games to pretend this is 'fun,' when in reality, those attending were there to learn how to speak 'correctly.'

I thought it was annoying, but the speech pathologists didn't. They saw it as doing their job-let me give them a game, make them say words, and see if their pronunciation improves. (You may be sensing a little authority problem too by now, but I was still a teenager afterall!)

One time I called a speech pathologist out on that, and I paraphrase, "Let's play a game to hide the fact we can't talk-that sounds like fun. Let's lie and hide it behind a children's board game."

I quickly got dismissed from that session.

Anyways, come the end of Middle School, I had more experience in speech pathology than most of the speech pathologists training me. I could even correct their lesson plans and tell them, "It helps if I have peanut butter on the roof of my mouth-it tells me where to put my tongue."

Given the fact that I had spent YEARS in speech therapy and come high school, I grew major confidence in my voice, I ultimately decided to quit speech therapy.

Lately though, when people ask me about my feelings towards speech therapy I can't help but to give them a piece of my mind.

Speech therapy is ultimately necessary, of course, but there should be a way to keep it 'fun' regardless of age. Effective speech therapy, and learning environments of all sorts, must grow and adapt with the age of the child involved. You would not give the same toys and games to a 3 year old as you would a 15 year old child. So why would you give them the same speech therapy games and tactics?