Speech Pathology and Audiology Research: Then and Now

The following is an article written by Dr. Charles Van Riper and included in the WMU Journal of Speech Therapy in September of 1965. In the article, Dr.

Van Riper challenges the theory that children retain their articulation errors because of the nature of the problem itself and challenges school therapists to examine and adjust their possible role in this retention. Van Riper's research remains valuable and important to consider more than 50 years later.

We have recently been exploring the problem presented by these children

in the public

schools who do not seem to benefit from speech therapy.

Why don’t they? Why do

some of them persist in their speech disorders year after year despite the strenuous efforts of the therapist? Is there any way to locate these children early so that we can see that they get special care and treatment? We do not have answers to these questions as yet, but we have some hunches and a bit of data. In her unpublished master’s thesis, Hansen studied ten of these children intensively. She showed that most of them showed perceptual deficiencies and language disabilities. In 1957, Rice (3) suggested on the basis of his survey of children not receiving therapy services, that children having three or more errors or having three or more errors or having lateral lisps or distorted “r” sounds tended to persist in their errors while others did not. Milisen (2) has shown that the type of

error was

predictive of articulation mastery and that certain errors, especially those of omission, indicated profound lag. Other workers such as McDonald (1) have pointed to the role of inconsistency of error as prognostic feature of measure of severity.

All of these researchers seem to imply that the reason for certain children retaining their articulation errors lies in the nature of the child’s problem itself.

The more severe the problem, the more likely will be its persistence. 30

But we would like to offer another tentative explanation. Quite apart from the competence of the therapist and the miserable conditions of time and case load under which he must work, is it not conceivable that the public school therapist by the very act of therapy may block the normal course of maturation?

Does speech correction correct or does it merely interfere?

It is not a pleasant thought, but sometimes our unpleasant confrontations produce the most progress. Why have we come to such a miserable hypothesis?

First, because many

of the children we now see in the university clinic, and some of the adults, have had unsuccessful public school speech therapy for many years.

There is no doubt that they are

difficult cases, but the basic difficulty seems to lie far too often in their attitudes toward the problem. They come reluctantly and without hope. At first, their cooperation is perfunctory. As one adult said to us, “I can’t do anything about my lateral lisp. I’m stuck with it forever.

I’ve tried a million times to make a

good “s” and I never made it.” His defective sibilants had been incorporated into his self-concept; in his own eyes or ears, he was a speech failure; he was a bad “s.”

Secondly, we have been impressed by some unpublished research carried out by Czuchna (4) which shows that one group of his subjects were able to identify both their correctly and incorrectly spoken words, while those of another group, a smaller one, were able to identify all the words that they spoke incorrectly but could not tell if the words they had uttered correctly were correct or not. What this seems to mean is that

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