April 20, 2010

"Ok, Let's Work On Your R's!"

I received a letter from a reader who shared with me her personal struggles with having a speech impediment:

I'm a mother of two young girls, am moderately deaf and wear two in-the-ear digital hearing aids. My hearing problem, though can be problematic at times, doesn't bother me as much as my speech impediment does. I still, at times, get frustrated with my inability to speak "R's" correctly. I took speech therapy up until 8th grade and even took a few sessions my senior year in college (hoping that you can teach an old dog new tricks). Interestingly enough, I broke down and cried during my initial speech evaluation during college and it was suggested that I seek psychotherapy. At first I took great offense to that suggestion and never did talk to a therapist. Though as the years went by, I realized that maybe that wasn't such a bad idea after all since it is mostly my self-esteem that is impacted by my speech disorder.

About five years ago, I finally started to take "ownership" of my speech impediment and just flat out tell people that are having a hard time understanding me that I have a speech impediment. This is been quite helpful to me and people generally understand, once I bring it out in the open. I usually do this when I have a hard time saying a word and I end up having to spell it out.

My speech disorder does hold me back, though - I'm quite the introvert. Lord knows how I snagged my husband. Though he says that my speech impediment isn't that noticeable (uh, maybe because I generally avoid words with the letter R in them) and doesn't understand why I get so upset. When we were picking names for our kids, I held firmly to the rule of no names with the letter R in them.


I can relate, and I am sure many people with deafness can as well. However, it was not a huge issue for me personally and it did not hurt my self-esteem so much, thankfully. But, it was not easy. Working on my speech was a tiring and long struggle.

I do remember a few times as a child, where other children would make comments about my speech. Some said that my voice sounded strange and some laughed at me whenever I mispronounced several words. But, it never really bothered me and I was fine with letting it slide or telling them exactly why I "talk funny." Once I told them why, they stopped questioning me about my strange voice and move on to other things such as finding out why Johnny has so many freckles on his face.

Like the reader above, I will often find myself substituting words I can never seem to pronounce correctly. Some of these words are  jewelry, and soldier. I am not sure how much this has to do with my deafness. But, I do know that my r's always tend to be long and sometimes sound more like w's, and this has a lot to do with my deafness. I cannot hear the crispness of the r sound. Like the reader above, I had to work on my r's as a kid among other things. I had to be taught directly how to form my r's. I remember during speech therapy saying over and over again, "The rabbit ran over the raspberry bushes."

I worked my little butt off to speak clearly the way I do today. My speech is not perfect, but it is good enough to communicate effectively with others.

It seems to me that I finally began to speak clearly, or well enough, when I was in my young adult years. It took me a long time and a tremendous amount of practice and hard work. One thing I did on my own that helped was read out loud to myself. I made an effort to speak clearly and slowly. I let the words form slowly in my mouth. I could almost taste them. When I am holding meetings, where I am expected to speak like a professional, I make a point to slow down my speech. I have to remind myself to slow it down; otherwise I will jumble my words or mumble.

I believe that my deafness makes me extra aware of my speech or how I talk. I can understand how this extra awareness of one’s own speech impediment can affect his or her self esteem.

It makes it difficult when you cannot hear certain sounds in spoken language. For me, I have a hard time hearing t, s, d, and f. Let’s say someone says the word fight in the sentence as he speaks to me. Unless I can see the person's face, instead of the word fight I may hear ice or something that has a long i sound in it. Most likely, I will guess what he is saying by looking at the context. If the speaker is fiddling with a lamp I will assume that he said the word light. So, you can see how missing out on certain consonants can impact not only how a person communicates with others but also the person's speech. As we learn spoken language we will imitate what we hear.

Sometimes, I will mistakenly substitute a letter that was never there, like the word Illinois. Until a few years ago, I have been pronouncing the s in Illinois. I did not know that the s was silent. I assumed that because I usually can not hear s sounds that you would pronounce the s in Illinois.

Years of practice and speech therapy helped me. I believe that today I speak clearly enough for people to understand me. In fact I get a lot of comments on my interesting accent. No one suspects or think it is because of my deafness. I get a lot of "Oh, Boston, eh?" "Are you from New York or the north?" "Huh, interesting accent. Are you from another country?"

I am sure that the reader above is not alone in developing insecurities and low self esteem due to her speech impediment. Anyone else out there want to share their story? How was it hard and how did you come to terms with it? What are some ways one can deal with his or her own speech impediment?

Feel free to email me your comments if you prefer.



  1. A very informative article. For more tips on getting rid of speech impediment please visit http://www.stutteringtips.com

  2. wpw! Thanks a lot for sharing this amazing info! I´d really like to stop my stammering

  3. I also have A speech impediment.In school we have to do speechs pages long.I dreed those moments most of all.I can never prenouce my r's right.I never said the word"turtle"to where people understood me the frist time. I tell people it's an atcent but im only lying to myself.I can speak better when I speak slowly and focus on what im saying.If I ciuld change anything about myself it would be the way I talk.I,ve grown to except it.I never like recoriding meself.That when yoy can truely hear what you sound like.I has effected my selfasteam alot but im thankful for the comlements I get onit though.In A way it's kinda cool,but in the end, it relly isnt :(

  4. i have never been able to talk normally. Im 16 years old and my dad thinks that my speech impediment is because of my hearing. i cant hear everything around me fine its just when i talk to me i sound like everyone else is it too much to ask to just be able to talk normal or at least be able to hear it so i have a shot on fixing it any advice


Keep it civil.