For his entire life, Winston Churchill had a speech impediment. It was bad enough for him to see a speech therapist, but it never stopped him from becoming one of the greatest orators of his time.
In 1897, Churchill was home on leave from the army and visited a London doctor about his lisp — he pronounced “s” as “sh”. The doctor, Sir Felix Semen, was a noted specialist in speech problems but did not find anything physically wrong. He told Churchill that there was no organic defect and that “practice and perseverance are alone necessary” for him to overcome his impediment.
After a visit to an American masseuse, who told Churchill the problem was that his tongue was “restrained by a ligament which nobody else has” Churchill returned to Dr. Semon and asked him to cut the ligament. The doctor refused. Churchill told his mother later that day that was still “tongue tied.” He then worked on rehearsing pronunciation of phrases like: “The Spanish ships I cannot see for they are not in sight.”
When he found that his speeches were well received by the people, he decided that his impediment was not holding him back.
According to Wikipedia: “Speech disorders, or speech impediments, are a type of communication disorders where ‘normal’ speech is disrupted. This can mean stuttering, lisps, etc. Someone who is unable to speak due to a speech disorder is considered mute.”
It is known that children, especially boys ages 2-5 may exhibit stuttering, but usually it goes away on it’s own as they develop better communication skills. More than 3 million Americans have a speech disorder such as stuttering or stammering.
Stuttering is a neurological impairment in the brain that interferes with fluent speech. What it boils down to is the brains sensitivity in processing speech and is a part of the brain that is underdeveloped. Stuttering is complex, and speech can be affected in different ways. A person who stutters has trouble getting the words out they want to say — such as w-w-w-water.
To most of us normal speech flows almost without thought. But actually speech is a complex process that requires precise timing, nerve and muscle control. Speech utilizes muscles from various parts of the body and brain, including the larynx (vocal chords), teeth, lips, tongue, mouth and respiratory system.
The brain processes the ability to produce and understand speech. A person with brain damage of some sort may be speech and language problems. Some with speech problems, especially if they have problems forming words, may have hearing problems that can impact the way a person pronounces their words. Genetics also plays a role. Churchill’s father stuttered, and stuttering seems to run in families.
The good news is, speech problems can be treated successfully — for adults and children. A speech pathologist can run a brain scan to see if the problem comes from connectivity problems within the brain. A speech therapist can then help to put together brain exercises that can strengthen weakened connections to improve speech.
Dealing with speech disorders can be frustrating. Often people make false judgments about a person’s intelligence based on how they talk, so getting help from a professional will not only aid in improving speech, but also self-image.
From the desk of Ron White, memory speaker
Behavioral and Brain Functions: Subcortical processing of speech regularities underlies reading and music aptitude in children
Wikipedia — Speech disorder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speech_disorder
The Churchill Centre and Museum — Churchill’s speech impediment was stuttering: http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/myths/myths/he-stuttered
Teen Health — Speech Problems: http://kidshealth.org/teen/diseases_conditions/sight/speech_disorders.html