Scanning the sheet on the wall, I looked for my name to see what my score was. Leaning over the shoulder of someone else, I saw my name. My heart raced as I followed my name across the computer printout and read the number 25.
I had to look twice, even three times. I just could not believe that I got all the way to the State Forensics Competition and got a perfect, first place, score for my speech. That one day, my senior year in high school, was a landmark day for me. I finally realized that all those years of speech therapy paid off.
You probably could have called me a babbling brook in the early years. I had a hard time making almost any sentence come out clear enough for someone to understand. The people who understood me most, back then, were my family and other people I saw on a regular basis.
Speech therapy was never something that was decided, it just was. Learning to sound out the B’s and the P’s. Making sense of the T sound. It was all Greek to me. My biggest problem was speaking slowly enough to make these sounds come out right. Sometimes I still have a problem with that if I get too excited.
The therapist kept harping on me, telling me to speak each word individually. Enunciating each letter and syllable. I could really see the difference in my speech when I was talking to people and they weren’t always asking me to repeat myself. It really felt good.
In junior high I started to go out for Forensics. I thought this would be a good way to hone my speaking skills. The first time out, the critiques came back with what my speech teacher had said; slow down and enunciate. As time went on, I got better.
I continued Forensics in high school and went out for Choir. Singing was really good at forcing me to enunciate. If you don’t enunciate a song well, it becomes a slurred group of words no one can understand. I would stay after school on some nights just to practice singing or to run through one of my speeches for an upcoming competition.
Another tool I used to help me was to record myself talking and then play it back. (Talk about an ego deflator.) I would do this several times in a row and hear a marked difference from the first to the last.
Being able to speak clearly has not only helped me in expressing myself clearly, it has also helped me be able to speak to schools, organizations and conferences. In the last year, I’ve spoken to several schools, organizations and businesses. If I had not been able to hone my speaking skills to where they are now, much of that would not have happened.
Making the most of what we have of speech is the key. Some will use speech synthesis to make themselves understood. Others will use sign language to communicate. In this era of the information super highway, people are communicating by fax, phone, e-mail, regular mail, computer networks and so much more.
As I learned how to use my voice to be understood, I also learned that what I said was just as important. Our words can be just as sharp as a pine needle if we use them the right way. It took a long time to get my speech to where it is today. The learning process of how to use my speech will be ongoing.