The last part of a five-part series.
After we left the speech center, I ran into an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in years. She was a speech therapist. I told her the whole story.
“What should we do about Nick,” I asked her. “He really has trouble with his Ls and Rs and Ths.”
“Leave him alone,” she said. “Unless he’s being teased at school, or asks for more speech lessons. If the problem doesn’t resolve on its own, you can address it in a couple of years when he’s 7 or 8. Those sounds are hard. He’ll be more capable of working on them when he’s older.”
This sounded right to us, especially after emerging from the pressure cooker we’d been in. So we left Nick alone, and hoped he’d improve with time.
He didn’t. He didn’t ask to go back to speech therapy either.
Despite this, Nick began making friends at Fern Hill. His career as a soft-sword-maker and carpenter flourished and our house filled with his projects.
When Nick was seven, Nora and I heard about a speech therapist from a Fern Hill mother whose daughter had trouble with her pronunciation. The therapist was a man named George. He taught speech in the local public school system, and had a private practice after hours. He had no office. George came to your house.
A few months later I called George and told him about Nick. He agreed to drop by.
Nick was dubious. He still remembered his problems at the speech center. But George proved to be easy going. The first day, he arrived with a bag full of games and laid them out on the dining room table. He and Nick played for an hour. Nothing was said about making sounds.
“He’s okay,” Nick said to us afterward. “He’s a gamer.”
This was high praise.
Every week for a month, George dropped by to play games.
One day he brought his Dungeons and Dragons set. George, it turned out, was a Dungeon Master. He constructed an elaborate game, which Nick looked forward to every week. Gradually, during the course of play, George began showing Nick how to make Ls. Nick didn’t mind. Rs followed. Then Ths.
They developed a kind of shorthand between them:
George: Lightning bolt or Freeze Ray?
Nick: Wightening bolt.
George: Can you fix that L for me?
Nick: Lightning bolt.
George: Good. Now they come to a river.
And so on.
After about a year of this, the problems with Nick’s pronunciation have cleared up. Ls sound like Ls, Rs sound like Rs. Ths sound like Ths.
Nora and I are glad we found George. We’re also glad we stopped going to the speech center when we did, and didn’t force Nick to remain there. We still don’t know exactly what was wrong between Nick and his former teachers. But we do know that Nick’s stuttering hasn’t recurred since he started working with George, and his speech keeps improving. That’s enough for us.
“He’s self-correcting now,” George told us recently. “Soon he won’t need me.”
“You mean no more Dungeons and Dragons after school on Mondays?”
“That’s what I mean.”
Nick loves his Monday game with George. He looks forward to it all weekend.
“Can you teach me to be a Dungeon Master before we stop the therapy?” I said to George.
You might also enjoy:
Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords — A father’s journey with his wordless daughter
And now for something completely different:
This post concludes the first multi-post series for Just Add Father, and I’d like your feedback. Too long? Too much on this topic? Too scintillating? Please leave a comment below–I (nearly) always write a response here. Or drop me a line at wolfpascoe(at)gmail(dot)com.
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