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Handedness and speech.--In most persons (and most persons are right handed) the central switch station of the nervous system, by means of which the speech organs are manipulated, is situated in the left half of the brain, and therefore on the same side as the centers which control the action of the right hand. In per sons who are left handed the speech centers are thought to be located in the right half of the brain, on the side of the centers controlling the muscles of the left hand.
Because of this possible relationship of the speech and hand centers in the lefthanded person, the belief is current that an attempt to change from the use of the left to the right hand may disturb the working of the speech center and produce a disorder of speech. If such is the case, it must be of rare occurrence and probably the result of drastic methods used to secure the change from left to right hand work. Based on the idea that the right-handed stammerer may have his speech center developed on the right side of the brain (on the opposite side from the side controlling the right hand), it has been suggested that such a speech defective should be trained to be left handed, thus bringing the speech and motor centers into a closer relationship. Cures from such training have been reported, but the mental suggestion accompanying the cure needs to be taken into consideration as producing or helping to produce the cure.
From what knowledge we have it would seem that, at school age, the change from left to right handedness (when not accompanied by emotional stress) is not likely to disturb normal speech, and there is very little ground for attempting a cure of stammering by changing the use of the hands. Where, in a left-handed child, attempts at change makes the speech worse, such attempts should certainly not be continued. The speech defective has enough to overcome without adding other difficulties.
Other Speech Conditions
Foreign, Family, and Provincial Dialect In many children mispronunciations which might seem to be due to defects in the organs of speech are due to the pronunciations which they have derived from a previous use of a foreign language, from contact in the home with those who speak such a language, or they are the results of the imitation of local and peculiar speech. The pupil may not be aware of his mispronunciations, and the treatment consists of making him aware of this, of demonstrating the true sounds, and in cultivating the habit of correct pronunciation.
Mispronunciations may be due to early methods of speech (baby talk) which have been more or less encouraged or, at any rate, not discouraged in the home.
In speech, as in other matters, we follow the line of least resistance until we are urged or dragged out of our habitual rut.
Speech defects of this nature can be detected by the methods already given. More than one error of pronunciation may be found, and these should be corrected one at a time.
Cleft Palate and Other Conditions Producing a Nasal Voice A normal nose is important for good speech, but in cleft palate and some other conditions too much of the vocal sound passes through the nose. The “nasal twang” is bad enough, out with an abnormal opening between the mouth and nose speech may be more or less unintelligible.
If the nostrils are closed, by pinching with the fingers, and the vowels are sounded a vibration will be felt in the fingers if the sounds pass too much into the nose. By practice the sounds should be directed more to the mouth, in which case the vibration will more or less disappear. The vowels should also be com bined for such practice with the consonants, except m and n and which require the open nose for their use.
Nasal Obstruction Anyone who has had an obstructive cold in the head realizes the need of the normal nose for clear speech, especially of words containing m and n. Where there is an unavoidable chronic obstruction in the nose or impaired resonance in the cavities of the head communicating with the nose, careful practice of exercises with words containing m and n will improve the speech to some degree.
Seriously Delayed Speech Most children are able to make use of at least a few words by the age of 18 months, but some do not acquire the art of speech until later. When the age of 4 is reached without the use of intelligible language, training in this direction should be attempted. An examination should be made first to determine whether the child hears normally and if there are other defects affecting the use of the voice.
Teaching should begin with the simplest sounds. The following suggestions are made by Helen M. Peppard:
When teaching a sound to a child whose speech images are retarded the teacher should take the child's face between his hands. The child should watch closely the teacher's mouth while the latter produces a simple sound, such as p. The teacher should continue making the same sound until the child can produce it. His eyes should then be covered by the teacher's hand, shutting out all visual stimuli that would cause distraction from the auditory impression, and the sound ah should be made close to the child's ear. This is done in order to give sufficient quantity and quality to the sound to make a strong impression. It will be necessary to make the sound several times very distinctly. Then the teacher should face the child. The child's hand should be placed on the teacher's throat, so that he can feel the vibration when the teacher says ah. (The mouth should be well open.) The child should then produce the sound.
It is well not to let the child attempt the sound more than once each time after the teacher has given it, for as yet his concept is not sufficiently definite for him to use it as a model. If it were, he would need no more training on that sound. The teacher should then slowly produce the sounds in succession as p-ah, p-ah, developing the papa. Other combinations should be taken up in the same manner. Progress will be very slow. The teacher must remember that, with such a case, the
• For further material regarding the teaching of cases with cleft palate the reader is referred to “The Correction of Speech Defects," by Helen M. Peppard, and “Defects of Speech," by Ida C. Ward.
• "Correction of Speech Defects." New York, The Macmillan Co.
child is unable to make even the simplest sounds consciously, and these simple sounds must be learned before the child can make combinations of sounds which form words.
There are often years of retardation to be overcome, and this can not be accomplished in a month.
The second type of speechless child is, as has been said, one who forms the correct auditory impression but is unable to disintegrate words into the elementary sounds of which they are composed. The result is confused motor (or kinæsthetic) imagery, which produces an unintelligible gibberish that has little similarity to the auditory impression.
Such a child has correct auditory impressions stored up, but has not learned the art of releasing them. Progress with this type is much more rapid than with the first type. Such a child is able to imitate the consonant and vowel sounds, but is unable to combine them in order to produce an intelligible word. For example, if you say daddy or mother, the child is unable to say the word after you in an intelligible manner. But when you break it into its simple elements, as da-dee or mo-ther, he will sound them correctly. This child hears and interprets the meaning of the word or sentence in terms of the object or the action implied, but he can not repeat either the word or the sentence, because so far as the motor speech area is concerned he can interpret and reproduce only the simplest form of stimuli. For example, the word mother recalls the image of his mother, but it does not stimulate the proper motor speech pathways to say the word mother. Again, Put on your coat recalls the action necessary to carry out the order; excitation immediately takes place along the association fibers connecting the memory centers necessary to stimulate the proper actions to carry out the order, but the child can not repeat the words.
In teaching a word like mother, begin with teaching m, then o, then mo. When he says mo correctly several times, teach ther. Put th-er together and get ther. Then have him produce the first group mo and then the second group ther. All words should be built up in this manner for children with this particular type of speech defect.
Again take a simple sentence like I see you. It will be necessary to break each word into its elementary sounds. In order to teach this type of child to say the above, the work must be presented in the following manner:
you Each word should be taught separately until it is clearly under the child's control. The simple sentence used above is not a problem of three words, or three stimuli, to the child, but one of six elementary sounds. At first the child's vocabulary will consist of words definitely taught, but as activity is aroused throughout the speech area the child slowly begins to interpret sounds of a more complex nature.
The consonant sounds should be combined with the vowel sounds as suggested on page 10. Probably the sounds of m, p, and s will be found easiest and should be attempted first. A very great deal can be accomplished with patience and persistence.
Readings and Recitations
THE O'LINCOLN FAMILY
Up flies Bobolincon, perching on an apple tree,
THE CATARACT OF LODORE
"How does the water
Anon, at the word,
And then came another,
To second and third
Comes down at Lodore,
As many a time
So I told them in rhyme,
That so I should sing;
To them and the King.
From its sources wbich well
From its fountains
Its rills and its gills;
It runs and it creeps
In its own little lake.
And thence at departing,
Awakening and starting.
On which it is bent,
Of its steep descent.
The cataract strong
As if a war waging
Rising and leaping,
Flying and flinging,
Turning and twisting,
Smiting and fighting,