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Pamphlet No. 22

October, 1931

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TED STATES OF AMERICA

SPEECH DEFECTS AND THEIR

CORRECTION

Introduction A recent bulletin of this office entitled “The Speech Defective School Child" called attention to what is done for speech defective children, and we trust that publication will promote the development of aid for such children through the public schools. For a long time to come, however, there will be schools in which no specially trained teachers are employed. The present publication is an attempt to meet the many requests for assistance that come to us from parents, regular teachers, and from others who are interested in doing what they can to aid speechdefective children or adults. We realize that probably in no field (unless it be in that of training in music) is it so difficult to furnish help in mere printed form, and that even if the material furnished is impeccable its use by those not specially trained is nevertheless difficult. However, the need for doing the “best we can" under the circumstances is imperative. Perhaps suggestions from those who make use of this publication will help us to improve upon it in a second edition.

Where special teachers are employed for speech correction the full cooperation of regular teachers and of parents is essential for best results, and the material in these pages is prepared partly for the purpose of informing parents and teachers concerning their part in seconding the special teacher in her never-easy task.

Kinds and Causes of Speech Defects

Before a physician can successfully treat a patient he must find out just what ails him. His first business is to diagnose the case. Those who make use of this publication will be aware that the speech of the person to be taught is defective, but they will not be able to aid him efficiently until they have determined just how and when and why it is defective.

The production of speech is an exceedingly complex process. It includes the perfect exercise of a pair of bellows (the lungs and bronchi), the nice adjustment of two vibrating curtains (vocal cords), together with the proper shaping of the lips, tongue, and soft palate for each sound that we make. The whole apparatus is manipulated by many muscles, big and little. Back of all this is the still more complicated machinery of the central nervous system in which speech originates. If this machinery is in average working order we have average speech, but, in the course of development, some part of the elaborate mechanism may not turn out quite normally or it may be damaged and we have defective utterance. As old Sir Thomas Browne said, “Men that look no farther than their outsides think

health an appurtenance unto life, and quarrel with their constitutions for being sick; but I, that have examined the parts of man, and know upon what tender filaments that fabrick hangs, do wonder that we are not always so.'

But this is not all there is to speech. Speech is often a direct response to some outward circumstance—it is the result of being spoken to, and we react with our whole being, emotionally, to the person who speaks. Some of us react so violently on occasion that the exquisitely delicate speech mechanism does not work readily or it may not work at all. We may be speechless, we may be more or less incoherent, or we needlessly repeat certain speech processes; that is, we “stammer” or “stutter." Save for a few phlegmatic fish-like folk we are all more or less speech defective on occasion, but happily our defectiveness is not frequent or very apparent.

It is difficult to draw a line between normal and abnormal speech, between speech defects and poor utterance, but one student of the subject would have it that 18 per cent of school children and about as many adults are defective.

Defective speech arises in general from: (a) Faults of development in the organs of speech, including weakness (from lack of full use) of the muscles managing the tongue and lips. Imperfect sounds are produced or wrong sounds are substituted for right ones. (b) Faults in the nervous machinery and total make-up of the individual which (although the special organs may be perfect) interfere at times with normal speech. These have been called emotional disorders of speech. Under excitement re press the wrong buttons in the brain, and in consequence the speech organs either do not work at all or they produce meaningless repetition of sounds. In some persons the conditions of (a) and (b) may be combined. (c) Speech that is defective may arise purely from faulty learning and imitation, as in foreign accent, local dialect, and family peculiarities of utterance. (d) The acquirement of speech is to a large extent an imitative process; but if he does not hear well, or if he does not hear at all, the learner of a language is greatly handicapped and his utterance is affected. Imperfect hearing may lead therefore to imperfect speech.

The more serious defects fall into the first two classes.

Faults Chiefly of the Speech Organs—“Mechanical” Defects

(1) Physical conditions which can not be fully overcome by effort. The following are some of the more frequent defects which interfere with normal speech and which can only be partially compensated for by special efforts in speech production: Obstruction of the nose from injury, abnormal growths in the nose or pharynx (adenoids), etc.; cleft or deformed palate; hare lip; protruding upper or lower front teeth and missing front teeth; relatively large and not easily managed lips; an overlarge tongue or one restricted in its natural movements; abnormalities in the vocal cords and in other structures of the larynx.

(2) Weaknesses in the tongue and lips and soft palate requiring for good speech more effort in their use than is habitually put forth, and resulting in "baby talk," "lisping," "lolling," or "nasality."

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