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A&S Speech Disorders Professor: Poet Amanda Gorman’s Story Shares Important Lesson
National Youth Poet Laureate and the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, Amanda Gorman, captured the world’s attention this month after she read her poem “The Hill We Climb” during the 2021 inauguration ceremonies. While her performance took people’s breath away, she revealed during a media interview that she previously suffered from a speech disorder and auditory processing disorder that made it challenging for her to pronounce and hear certain sounds.
Dr. Jonathan Preston is the director of the Speech Production Lab and an associate professor of communications sciences and disorders at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. He specifically focuses on causes of and treatments for speech sound disorders, such as persisting articulation errors and childhood apraxia of speech. He says speaking strategies that Gorman attributes her success to, such as reciting poetry or rapping, can be helpful to solidify clear speech production.
“Amanda Gorman is a great example of a person with much to say, but who might not have always been understood. She describes her speech disorder has having difficulty saying certain sounds, including ‘r’. She has clearly overcome this challenge with hard work and the help of a speech-language pathologist, a professional who can help individuals figure out how to make certain speech sounds (to say ‘r’ lift up the front of your tongue, lower the back of your tongue, but keep the sides up in the back – it’s complicated!).
“Strategies such as poetry or rapping may be helpful to solidify clear productions once a person has learned the underlying articulatory movements of a sound. As Amanda states, repeating a song from Hamilton which is loaded with ‘r’ words helped her to rehearse the coordinated movements for clear speaking.”
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