I talks good

By the

March 15, 2001

I dreaded every Friday of the second grade. That was the day that the school speech therapist came and pulled me out of class. Even at eight years old, I was slightly skeptical; I didn’t really know why they were pulling me out of class. The way I heard it, I sounded fine.

So what if I hissed the letter “s” a little bit. Even my mom said that most kids do it. She thought I’d grow out of it. But somehow, after I took the test to be in the gifted program and they gave her the results, I ended up in the gifted program and speech therapy.

I viewed the speech classes as if they were a prison sentence and I had unjustly been assigned to serve time. I didn’t know how to “talk right,” but I knew the only way out was to look as though I were rehabilitated. I had to learn the system. I would trick them.

Tricking them would have been easier if I had understood what the hell was going on. First, they told me I was really smart. But I didn’t know any other smart kids in my speech therapy group, and when I got picked up from my regular class, all the other kids snickered. I was the class Around-the-World champ (you know, that dorky math flash-card game), but I had to go to the class with the weird kids that didn’t talk.

Besides failing to grasp why I was there, I also couldn’t understand what they were doing to me when I got there. Case in point, the Saltines?I hated when the teacher whipped out the Saltines. Normally, my teacher offering me the tasty snack would have made my day. But at speech therapy, she was evil. I had to open my mouth while she shoved the whole cracker in and made me talk without getting the cracker soggy and NEVER, EVER swallowing it. This may seems obvious (it wasn’t to the therapist), but it is really hard to talk with a large cracker in your mouth. If I wasn’t speaking correctly in the first place, how did she think this was going to help?

I remember once she thought it would be “fun” to have our session outside. We walked along the school track and said tongue-twisters. I got to do the “s” one:

“Sally sells seashells by the seashore.”

“Say it again.”

“I said it right.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Fine. Sally sells seashells by the seashore.”

After about 15 repetitions of the above conversation she went to the kid that had the “p” problem.

“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”

While she tortured him, I thought about the meaning of these tongue-twisters. They were stupid. Why would someone sell seashells by the seashore? I lived by the beach; I knew as well as anyone that you would never go and buy stupid shells when they were lying on the beach for free. Peter and the peppers? I felt sorry for anyone named Peter Piper; I knew I would never eat anything as gross-sounding as pickled peppers; and what was a peck? Normal people did not talk this way. If this was why they were sending me to speech therapy, to learn to use words like “peck” in conversation, I wanted none of it. But I still had to graduate the pointless class, or I would be stuck in Saltine hell forever.

By springtime, my speech instructor told me that she thought I almost sounded cured. I still couldn’t tell any difference?I just figured I had beaten the system?I had gotten better about not getting the Saltine soggy when I talked and had even discussed how I had bought some sea-shells. She said I was ready to be tested by the county supervisor of speech therapy. My instructor seemed very nervous when she got me out of class to speak to the speech-therapy guru. I passed. I was relieved?no more Saltines, tongue twisters or kids laughing at me for going to speech therapy.

When I came home and told my mom that I had passed the exam, she was happy but told me that she was never really worried because she knew I could do it. Later, I remembered that she really liked Steve Martin’s standup act about how the best joke is to teach your kids how to talk incorrectly. To this day, I still say (and so does she) that the beverage people eat with cereal and comes from a cow is “malk.” People make fun of me, but to me it sounds just fine.

Read More

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments