( Intermediate Level )
Kathryn was a shy ten-year-old little girl. She didn’t have many friends. Her classmates made fun of her speech impediment. She wouldn’t raise her hand in class to answer questions and she sat alone at lunch just watching her classmates play at recess.
When Kathryn began to talk at the age of two her mother thought her stammer was cute and really didn’t see any reason to be concerned. The doctors told her not to worry. “Many children go through this stage when learning to talk.” Once she got a little older they would reexamine the situation.
It wasn’t until she started school that she noticed her daughter’s stammer became more pronounced. By this time Kathryn’s personality changed. She used to be an inquisitive learner. She would ask tons of questions. Now she has retreated into her own little world.
It wasn’t until Kathryn reached the fifth grade when she met her new teacher, did her life change. Immediately, Miss Greenwald noticed Kathryn’s stammer. She, too, had a member in her family with this infliction and had knowledge in how she could help her.
Miss Greenwald took the opportunity to talk with Kathryn’s mother at the meet the teacher night held at the beginning of each school year. She asked her permission to work with Kathryn three times a week, after school, to help her with her stammer.
Of course, Kathryn’s mother agreed. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for one hour after school Kathryn would meet with Miss Greenwald. Both Kathryn’s mom and Miss Greenwald had high hopes for Kathryn. If anything, they’re hoping to bring her out of the shell she created for herself.
Kathryn didn’t understand why she had to stay after school three times a week. She had told her mom she felt she was being punished. Her mom reassured her that she was not in trouble. “Miss Greenwald simply wants to see if she can help you, honey.“
Reluctantly, Kathryn stays after class on Monday. This would be the first time she would meet with her teacher. She would rather be home in her bedroom with her toys.
Kathryn sat quietly at her desk waiting for Miss Greenwald. She was hoping her teacher forgot. Just as she thought this, Miss Greenwald walked in carrying a pile of papers and a book.
She set her belongings on the desk in front of where Kathryn was sitting and turned the desk around so she could face her. Miss Greenwald gave Kathryn a huge smile and sat down.
“Why the sad face? You will love what I have planned for us“, as she organized the pile of papers into different smaller piles. “First of all, let me say you are not alone when it comes to your stammer.”
” Seventy million people in the world have the same as you. That is one person in every one hundred has a stammer. And Missy, this does not include other speech problems such as a lisp or a handful of other impediments. You are not alone in this.”
“My nephew, Greg, has a stammer also. He is much older than you and has found ways to control it. This impediment will not go, away you just have to find ways to control it. I don’t want you to hide that pretty voice of yours.”
Kathryn sat there listening to her teacher. Now, she found herself wanting to know more. She isn’t different. She is not a freak as her classmates would call her.
As each after-school session continued, Kathryn’s mom noticed a change in her daughter. She was no longer hiding in her bedroom. She enjoyed spending time with and talking to her mom now.
“Mom, Miss Greenwald says this problem will not go away so I need to find ways to control it. I can use some of the techniques she taught me. Slowing down when I talk and thinking about each word I say.”
“I am to focus on her in the classroom and not look at the others. It may take me a little longer to answer but I am not going anywhere anytime soon so those listening need to sit and listen.” She giggled at this last statement.
“It is important for you not to help me with words. Let me do it on my own. Miss Greenwald, also, said every Friday we would go to the music room and sing. She said she read where people who have the same problem, as me, sing and their stammering goes away.”
“Oh Mommy, wouldn’t that be great if I could sing and no one would know I have a stammer?” Kathryn’s mom stood there listening to every word she said. She was amazed at how far her daughter had come and how much confidence she had now.
“Yes, Kathryn it would be amazing to hear you sing. I look forward to this. I hope Miss Greenwald will allow me to come and listen one day.”
The first few singing sessions in the music room were a bit scary for Kathryn. This is the first time she heard her voice through a microphone. She thought it sounded awful.
“Next Friday, Kathryn, I want you to do something different. I want you to close your eyes when you sing. I want you to feel the words. All along I asked you to think of each word as you say them but now I want you to feel the words when you sing.”
Kathryn didn’t quite understand what her teacher wanted. Feel the words? She would close her eyes, as her teacher asked, next Friday. Until then she would practice the song Miss Greenwald picked for her.
The song she picked was a song that she felt would mean something very special to Kathryn. It was about a girl finding her voice and not caring what others thought.
Without Kathryn’s knowledge, Miss Greenwald made a call to her mom, “I am calling to see if you would like to come to the music room at school on Friday to hear your daughter sing?”
Without hesitation, she said, “Yes, Kathryn told me what you two were up to. I am so excited! Thank you for everything you have done for my Kathryn. I am so happy to see my little girl enjoying life again!“
“One more thing, please do not say anything to your daughter about coming. I am afraid she will be too shy or afraid to sing. She has made wonderful progress and I wanted to share this with you,” Miss Greenwald said with concern. ” See you on Friday at about four. I will have her practice a few times first.”
Kathryn practiced and kept practicing the song. Since she was to sing with her eyes closed she couldn’t read the lyrics. This meant she had to memorize each word.
Monday’s and Wednesday’s after-school classes went without a hitch. Kathryn always tried her best for her teacher. Miss Greenwald told her on Friday they would practice the song to music only. Her voice would be the only voice they would hear.
Kathryn knew the words of the song by heart now. On Friday she would hear her voice put to the music. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. “You will be fine. Remember I have been here every step with you and I think you are amazing. I am so proud of you.”
The music room doors were closed and the lights dimmed. Kathryn stood on the small stage reading through the music one more time. “Are you ready?”, her teacher asked. Kathryn sighed and said, “Yes.“
The music started. “Listen to the music then start when you are ready.” Kathryn stood there. “Close your eyes. You can do this.” Kathryn closed her eyes and began. With each chord, her voice became stronger as her confidence grew.
“That was amazing Kathryn. Get a drink of water and let’s talk about a few changes and we will do it once more.” They discussed the changes and Kathryn sang one more time. She was amazed. She didn’t have any difficulty with any of the words. Each word flowed without any hesitation.
“Okay, I need to step outside for a moment and make a call. When I get back I will have you sing one last time. I think, now, you understand what I meant by feeling the words.” She smiled and stepped out of the music room.
A few minutes passed and Miss Greenwald returned. “Are you ready?” She turned the lights down once again and Kathryn adjusted the microphone.
When Miss Greenwald left she had made sure Kathryn’s mom had arrived. She instructed her to stay outside the door until she heard the music start. Kathryn would have her eyes closed plus the lights would be down low. She could slip in and sit in the back row.
The music started and Kathryn began to sing. Her voice was beautiful. Her hands moved with each word. Her mom had slipped into a seat and listened. She sat there watching how her daughter stood behind the microphone enjoying what she was doing.
When the song finished Kathryn opened her eyes. She had a huge smile on her face. She saw Miss Greenwald standing directly in front of her. “Kathryn what an amazing job you did with that song. You felt each word.”
As Kathryn smiled back at her teacher her eyes were drawn to a slight movement towards the back of the room. Then she saw her mom. Her mom stood and clapped. The sound of her hands-clapping echoed in the music room.
A huge smile appeared on Kathryn’s face. “See Mommy, just let me sing!
Written by: Angel
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speech impediment – noun: a defect in a person’s speech
recess – noun: a break
stammer (also known as a stutter) – noun: pauses and a tendency to repeat the initial letters of words
inquisitive – adjective: curious
retreated – verb: withdraw
infliction – noun: unpleasant situation, circumstance or problem
bring her out of the shell – idiom: to cause someone to be more outgoing
punished – verb: treat (someone) in an unfairly harsh way
reassured – verb: remove doubts or fears
lisp – verb: speech impairment where sounds of letters sound differently such as s or z sounds like a th sound
techniques – noun: skill or ability
confidence – noun: feeling of trust or belief
memorize – verb: learn by heart
hitch – noun: interruption or problem
terrifying – adjective: extreme fear
slight – adjective: small degree, inconsiderable
Question ( s ):
Do you know anyone with a speech impediment?
If so, what techniques do they use to control their impediment?