When children (and sometimes adults) have difficulty speaking, people often ask if they are just being lazy. It does look like laziness – after all, in articulation practice, they can say 250 /l/ words correctly in a row, yet they keep using the wrong sound in conversation. It’s so frustrating! If only they’d try harder!
But changing your speech is actually very difficult. Try saying a word with an /s/, but change the /s/ to an /l/. It’s not too difficult, is it? Now try counting to 10, and do the same switch. Could you do it? Was it easy? Most people forget to change the /s/ sound at the end of “six,” even though they concentrate and slow down their speech. (Karen Stroszka Denby, SLP).
Speaking while thinking about how you produce sounds is “like climbing a mountain with a 100 pound pack on your back compared to no pack. Those that have to climb with the pack may look lazy, because it takes so much more effort.” (Debbie Schantz, SLP).
Having difficulty speaking sometimes means that you have to repeat everything constantly so that people can understand you. If it were easier to get it right the first time, they would! (Cat Wood, SLP).
Speech difficulties are not an issue of laziness, but of the way the brain processes speech sounds, coordinates the movements for speech, and develops automatic abilities. Automatic abilities seem effortless – so for an adult with no speech difficulties, speaking seems like a very easy task. But changing your speech is going against an automatic default system.
I hope this article was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.