When my daughter would introduce herself to an adult we just met, it often consisted of three steps. Corrigan saying her name, me saying her name, and the adult saying her name again. It would sound like this:
Clerk in a Gift Shop: You’ve been such a good helper to Mommy. Would you like a sticker?
Clerk in a Gift Shop: (handing her the sticker) What’s your name?
Clerk looks at Corrigan a few seconds to process what she said.
Corrigan: (louder) Tor-ri-gan.
Clerk continues to look mystified by the strange assemblance of syllables. She looks to me for assistance.
Clerk in a Gift Shop: Oh, Corrigan. Oh! What a beautiful name.
I am used to the looks of bewilderment people learn my kid’s name. Corrigan isn’t common. Once Corrigan began speaking for herself, I didn’t worry how she said her name, or how she mispronounced other words in her vocabulary, because I assumed she would grow into her native language when the time was right for her.
My daughter belongs to generations of women who mispronounce words. My mom says shawn for shawl. She says fee-yet-tahs when she orders fa-hee-tahs (fajitas). When Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” was the song of the summer, my sister wanted to see Death Leppard in concert. In college, right before I went on stage to deliver a monologue about a woman in an Istanbul harem, one of my comrades told me I had been saying Bosphorus Sea incorrectly. Weeks of rehearsal and she confessed it to me then. It took all my focus to say Bos-ferus instead of Bos-four-us.
Sometimes my family and I get teased; sometimes we tease each other. Mostly, we have thought our clumsy tongues funny. Nothing requiring an intervention. So, when preschool teachers encouraged me to have Corrigan tested by a speech therapist, I didn’t want to take the idea seriously. Yet I had to when the speech therapist confirmed missed milestones in several sounds–ga, sh, and ka being at the top of the list. She insisted Corrigan’s speech may never improve without therapy.
I didn’t think an adult Corrigan would still be calling herself Torrigan. Wouldn’t maturity override how her mouth shaped words? Especially the ka sound. But who I am to question such authority? I certainly didn’t want to risk it, and then, on her wedding day, when she says, “I, Torrigan, take you, Tristopher” regret a decision made when she was five.
After a few months of weekly visits, I started to adore Corrigan’s therapist. Ironically, I loved the sound of her voice, soothing and reassuring, when she spoke with either of us. I think Corrigan enjoyed working with her, too.
The whole profession is an interesting gig to me. Speech therapists engage young children with games for forty-five minute sessions. It looks like playtime, but the therapist is actively listening to each syllable and teaching the child how to make the sounds that make words. Watching a speech therapist is like watching a piano tuner. It is detailed work. She needs a discerning ear to hear what the child is doing to make a particular sound, then she models what to do with teeth, tongue, lips, and uses the games to create reasons for the child to repeat each sound until mastered.
For months, all summer, I brought Corrigan to her weekly visits. For months, all fall, it felt like it would never end. I started to wonder if the time and fiscal investment even worth it. Then, after the New Year, I noticed I wasn’t asking Corrigan as many questions to understand what she was trying to say. I noticed I was conversing with her like I did anyone else. Conversations with her were becoming effortless.
The speech therapist had also made similar observations and when I heard her say, ” … make recommendations to conclude treatment” I wanted to jump out of my jeans and scream, Ka-zam, my baby girl rocks.
In March, we celebrated her graduation. I surprised my little rocKstar, an official master of the ka sound and thus, her name, with a Mylar balloon at her last appointment, and that night, our family gathered with grandparents at the local ice cream shop for her favorite treat.
Inspired by the letter K in the A to Z Challenge. Scroll past the social media buttons to share your own story of a kid’s success or to comment on this post.