Sometimes it can be hard to relate to our students with articulation or language difficulties because we didn't go through those struggles as a child. I got braces as an adult and it did a lot more than straighten my teeth, it gave me new perspective!
When I was 19 (I'm in my 30's now), I received braces. I had bite issues for years and finally had to get it addressed. I know there would be an adjustment with them, but I didn’t expect them to help me relate to my students so much. The braces initially altered my speech making me sound like someone in need of a little TLC from an SLP. They helped me learn some helpful insights about the skills and strategies we teach our kids.
The braces messed with my /s/ primarily. I had a bit of a ‘slushy lisp’ going on. Initially I was kind of intrigued by it. I thought it would be a nice experience to try the strategies and skill that I work on all the time with my kids. I would get a first-hand experience on how difficult it really was to treat and correct this error. Here is what I learned…
• It takes a lot of playing around: When I first spoke with the Braces in and heard my /s/ I immediately tried to correct it but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. My tongue was doing its own thing now because of the braces. It took some effort and thought to control my tongue just elicit a simple /s/. I never had to think about making a sound before, so this was a bit eye opening. I had to play around with placement and practice it for quite a bit.
• It’s not as easy as it looks: Speech was effortful. I had to make a conscious effort to slow down so I could get proper placement. It was challenging at times to monitor my rate and placement. I would start out great, then pick up speed and start to lose my placement and therefore, my sound went downhill. It felt awkward to speak at a slower rate than what we are accustomed to. I really didn’t like it, I felt like everyone would hear this difference…but no one really did.
• Practice and Consistency Really Were the Key: I wanted needed my speech to be clear. After all that’s my job! I would practice in the car saying words to practice my placement. I would monitor my speech and keep my rate slow no matter how weird it felt, because that is what helped me speak more clearly. I did this a lot. It was annoying, but I did see improvement. It got easier to say words with a nice clear /s/ the more I practiced. I noticed I didn’t have to try as hard to get placement on the first try. I could a little faster and still be clear.
I still have to monitor and correct myself from time to time but now, people I meet have no clue I have my Invisalign in. The whole experience has been very eye opening and helped me connect with many of kids. In the future I will still remind my students that they need to monitor their rate but will be more understanding when they aren’t doing it all the time, I get it now. I have also learned a lot of progress depends on motivation. If you want change, and work for change, change will come. I may spend more time working on motivation with my kids than I have in the past. So as much as my mouth hurt those days, I am glad I did it.