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Growing Up Deaf - Speech Therapy

Or, Doing Battle with S, Th, Sh...


Updated July 25, 2009

Growing Up Deaf Serial

I hated speech therapy. As a young child I gave my therapists such a hard time that my mother said after a session with me, they would be emotionally drained and physically exhausted. My speech therapy began when I was a toddler, supplemented with correspondence courses from the John Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles. My toddler speech was so poor that only my younger sibling could understand me. They often had to ask my younger sibling to interpret what I was saying.

Not all deaf children succeed with the pure oral approach. I was fortunately a quick learner and managed to learn to speak and lipread fairly well. Speech therapy lasted until I was in my early teens, and it was supplemented by more therapy in school.

Growing up, I was frequently praised for three things by adults: 1) "You're so smart!" 2)"Your speech is good!" 3) "You're a shining example of an oral success!" Oral groups held me up as an example of an oral success. (At the time, deaf children who did not succeed orally were labeled "oral failures.") Initially I liked the praise, but as I got older it began to bother me. I began saying to myself, "Is that all that's good about me? That I'm smart and that my speech is good?"

I have the kind of "deaf speech" that is not easily understood the first time you meet me, but fairly easy to understand once you get to know me. It causes me a lot of problems in public when I try to communicate with hearing people, and very often I must resort to pen and paper.

When I was in elementary school, my mother took me out of school for half of the day once a week to go to the New York League for the Hard of Hearing (today it is just the League for the Hard of Hearing) in Manhattan for my speech therapy. I disliked that, because it made me feel so conspicious to leave in the middle of the day.

When we later moved to the suburbs, she took me after school to a local center for the physically handicapped for speech therapy. This went on for years. Towards the end, I made a major discovery that made me angry. I discovered that the window of the speech therapy room was a two-way mirror, and that meant anyone, even strangers, could watch me at work with my therapist and hear my voice. I felt my privacy had been violated. Not too long after that discovery, I refused to continue therapy there. By then I was in my early teens.

After that, the only therapy I had was at school, and I was glad when it all came to an end.

Growing Up Deaf Serial

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