Academic journal article Storytelling, Self, Society

Speaking of Stories: An Exploration of Oral Stories as an Intervention in Speech Sound Disorders

Academic journal article Storytelling, Self, Society

Speaking of Stories: An Exploration of Oral Stories as an Intervention in Speech Sound Disorders

Article excerpt

Introduction and Project Description

My son comes home from school, excited about a book he read during free time. "Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. And Jupiter is the biggest. Over a thousand earths can fit in it." He overflows with facts, talking fast and with enthusiasm. "New stars are born in nebulae. And a supernova is a star when it explodes." I relish sharing a learning experience with him, and then a profound sense of gratitude, wonder, and satisfaction comes over me. At this moment, it is not the marvels of this universe that startle me. It is my son's perfectly formed words-the /r/ and /k/ in Mercury; the /d3/, /p/, and /t/ in Jupiter; and the /s/, /n/, and /v/ in supernova. It is his ease at talking and my ease in listening that makes me stand still and look back. It is something I had almost come to take for granted.

This planetary discussion intersects with a time when I am deeply ensconced in reviewing scholarly articles about studies on speech-language pathology, a field I have dealt with directly for a number of years. Surely, this is framing the moment. I am reading about control groups and measures, statistics and findings, but behind all of this, I hear voices and recall uncounted attempts, I see faces and recall immeasurable efforts. As I read these technical journal articles, my experiences with my child are continually brought back to mind. It is a gift of remembering-remembering struggles with /s/, /t/, and /g/ and remembering victories in /v/, /k/, and /t/. It is a dance with sound that has come to a beautiful and satisfying conclusion-my son is articulate. I can understand his every word, and that means I can better understand his passions, his questions, his ideas, and his life.

When a speech-language pathologist tested our son for speech impairments and showed me the results of that test, I was stunned. I knew my child was hard to understand, but I had no idea how far behind he was developmentally. I quickly enrolled him into a preschool intervention program that was under the direction of our school district. The program used group and one-on-one methods, and a parent always attended with the child. This was an enormous benefit, as it helped me and the other parents know how to continue speech training outside of the classroom.

I can still see our story circle in that class. Alternating adult- and child-sized vinyl chairs formed a half circle, and two young speech-language pathologists sat at the head. These teachers taught us the basics of articulation mechanics. They read stories and played games. Over and over again, they turned to sound and to story. They encouraged us parent-teachers to keep our language practice fun and interesting, to use rhythm, rhyme, and repetition, and to read, read, read.

As a writer of children's stories, it didn't take me long to recognize that much of their instruction was a call to story. Although the circumstances asked for specific goals and objectives, the substance was the same. The speech-language pathologists encouraged us to surround our children with purposeful language and, in the process, to help our children find a voice. I spent hours and hours in the children's library. I hunted for books with particular repetitions and hoped the books would have strong appeal. Some books were useful; others were not. Still, I was asking a great deal of books that had been written for a general market. I could not help but notice the gaps. I could see a space for sound-driven story and I yearned to play a part in filling that space.

A New Frontier for Oral Stories

I have given a good deal of consideration to the uses of storytelling with students who are challenged by speech and language delays, and this quest is much of the reason why I decided to pursue a graduate degree in storytelling. Storytelling is rooted in oral language (Roney, "A Case"), and it seems plausible that the storytelling medium can help young children who struggle to form words for expression. …

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