Revised on: 07.6.2018 at 09:49 a.m.
Posted on: 07.6.2018 at 11:00 a.m.
By Margaret High
Miranda Sibbett sat in her kindergarten classroom, paying attention to her teacher just like her classmates. The teacher asked a question and Sibbett eagerly raised her hand. She knew the answer.
After squirming in her chair and winning her teacher’s attention, Sibbett gave her answer.
“What was that, sweetie?” her teacher asked.
Sibbett responded, then the teacher asked her to repeat her response. The teacher looked at Sibbett, then asked a third time.
Despite knowing what she was trying to say, all that came out of Sibbett’s mouth was babble. It is one of her first memories realizing she had speech impairment.
Speech impairments are a lot like color blindness. People living with these deficiencies don’t realize they have it until other people point it out. Everything seems right, but others tell them it’s wrong.
“I understood what I was trying to say but nobody else could,” Sibbett said. “I would talk to my peers and they would be like, ‘What are you trying to say?’ Words wouldn’t sound right or would be slurred.”
Sibbett’s mother, Angela, had a similar speech impairment when she was young, allowing her to catch Sibbett’s impairment early and get her into speech therapy at 3 years old.
Speech-language deficits affect about one in 12 children, or about 5 to 8 percent of preschool children. Speech impairments don’t always mean learning disability, and most children diagnosed with speech deficits are able to communicate the entire English language by 8 years old.
Impairments are different from impediments, the difference being that impediments are stutters, lisps or stammers. Impairments mean there’s something in the brain’s pathways affecting the ability to communicate.
There are no genetics linked to speech impairments, although research shows childhood disorders often pop up within families.
Sibbett was able to graduate speech therapy by third grade, paving the way for her to continue her education and eventually become involved with performing arts.
Now a South Columbus High School graduate, Sibbett will attend Catawba College in the fall to study performing arts.
“Honestly because of (speech therapy) classes, I realized I wanted to speak,” Sibbett said. “It’s been a really big impact on me because I’ve been in the theater arts in high school. I wouldn’t have been able to get in front of a crowd and talk.”
Columbus County Schools recently passed in the 2018-2019 school year budget to continue contracting speech therapy services, an expensive endeavor but necessary for the need in the schools.
Sibbett was able to take speech therapy classes during the regular school day because of these types of services. There are two employees of the school system, who lead the speech therapy program Sibbett went through.
“These classes didn’t make me feel less than my peers,” Sibbett said. “These classes made me feel equal to my peers.”
When she was in second grade, she had a speech therapist tell her to practice talking with a spoon of peanut butter in her mouth. This allowed her to learn how to communicate clearly with her mouth full.
Despite overcoming her impairment, there’s still one word Sibbett can’t pronounce: sushi. She can sound it out syllable-by-syllable, but attempting the word without a pause comes out as “zusi.”
Today, not many people know she had a speech impairment. It never comes up in conversation and she can pronounce every word as they sound.
Sibbett attended Governor’s School last summer for the performing arts, spending every day speaking on the stage. No one picked up that she used to have a speech impairment. She realized she wanted to enter a career in performing arts at Governor’s School.
“Theater for me is another way to speak to people,” Sibbett said. “Acting is my form of communication. I can be whatever I want to be, (theater) is a place where I can just be myself and make other people laugh or cry and feel emotions.”
At Catawba College, Sibbett will continue to hone her craft, expected to spend roughly four hours a day in rehearsals and sometimes wake up at 7 a.m. to recite lines.
“For me to be on stage and do what I love, I don’t care how many nights I go sleepless,” Sibbett said.
Sibbett hopes to join a theater company after graduation and be a performer in some shape. Long term, Sibbett plans to eventually become a theater teacher. Theater teacher Amy Jones was influential in Sibbett’s high school career, pushing her to apply for Governor’s School and supporting her career in the performing arts.
From talking jibberish to perfectly reciting the words in “A Thousand Cranes,” Sibbett said it took a lot of hard work and support to get where she is today.
“I view the speech impairment as an obstacle in my life,” Sibbett said. “Without the speech impairment, I don’t think I’d be as willing to do theater as I am now, because all I wanted to do was talk.”