DisPatches, winter 1999-2000
Maureen Green, Speech Sleuth
Dispatches columnist George Barker tries a speech exercise with Maureen Green.
Maureen Green doesn't resemble TV's cigar-chomping gumshoe Colombo in appearance. But the slender, smiling redhead has his relaxed manner and is a genuine speech sleuth.
During our first session, she said, "We will be detectives together and try to find some clues to help your speech."
My problem is tense, hard-to-understand, dysarthic speech. Maureen quickly deduced that her biggest challenge would be helping me to relax while I work at articulating my sounds.
She thought that if I would try reciting some poetry, it might help loosen me up. She asked me if I had a favorite poet. I thought for a while, and then remembered the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. She told me that her favorite poets were the English Victorian poets, and the translation of Omar by Edward Fitzgerald was lumped in with them.
When she asked me how I would like to work, I suggested that I thought we could make more progress working one-on-one rather than in a class. She found a small room in the Campus Police Building. We just sit facing one another, and we talk about everything. I find this easy conversation relaxing.
She asked me if I would be bothered by being tape recorded, as many people with cerebral palsy are sensitive about hearing their own voices. It is true that I don't care much for the sound of my squeezed-out speech, but I had practiced many times with tape recordings of my voice, so I readily agreed. In every instance, Maureen made sure that nothing would interfere with my feeling of ease in our sessions.
Right now, we are trying guided imagery, another technique Maureen is using to help me relax. She has made me more aware of my tendency to leave off the final consonants of words and the trouble I have with "s" and "f" sounds. She's a great therapist, and I look forward to our weekly sessions with their hour of good conversation.