Uncovering the Long-Term Emotional Effects of Pronunciation Problems
Often the way a child speaks has little to no effect on them. Such is the case for a child who has a mild lisp. They may not even be aware of it or have grown so accustomed to it that they don’t believe anything to be unusual about the way they speak.
That’s not the case with every speech disorder. A pronunciation problem, just one form of speech sound disorder, may have a long-lasting negative impact on children; especially as they grow older and become more aware of their speech problems.
A Penn State University study showed children with speech difficulties were at a higher risk for bullying than children without speech problems. Further studies have shown that both adults and children draw conclusions about a person by the way they speak. A child who has a pronunciation problem or other speech sound disorder may become labeled as “stupid” or “slow.” As the child ages, the stigma grows. By adolescence, it can have a severe impact on their social development.
Social Development Concerns
As children reach their teen years, friendships and social groups have been formed. A child that becomes a teen with a continuing moderate or severe pronunciation problem may be at a disadvantage when it comes to building or maintaining social and interpersonal relationships with their peers. Poor communication competence has been known to lead to:
Teens and older children may become reluctant to participate in the classroom. They may become a passive observer or shut down completely. When trying to speak effectively and clearly becomes uncomfortable, teens may become self-conscious and resentful and could lower their self-esteem. Feeling frustrated and uncomfortable can turn school into a very unwelcome place.
Concerns at Home
While home is often a haven for children and teens feeling excluded at school, there are still issues that may affect how a child feels and perceives themselves and their pronunciation problem. As a parent, your instinct is likely to help your child improve their speech. You may become overenthusiastic in your efforts to work with your child to practice speaking correctly.
The child may not be physically ready to try out new skills or they may become resentful, frustrated, mad because they feel they are disappointing you.
Patience is an important skill for both you and the child to have. It may take years of working with a speech-language therapist for the child to overcome their pronunciation problem. Improvements may come in small steps and it’s imperative to recognize that there is more at stake than just the physical ability to speak properly, there is also an emotional aspect to correct speech and the weight it carries as the child grows up.