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When I was my daughter’s age, I was pulled out of my home classroom for quite a few years to work on four letters of the alphabet individually or in combination: s, z, sh, zh, ch, j.

I remember mild humiliation going to speech class. Why do those sounds not glide effortlessly off my tongue like they did for my classmates? Speaking German, they were never an issue. But in English, a bit of one although they were overshadowed by a bigger question: what if I were gay?

I wish I had, back in the day, a few role models to tell me it would all be OK. I worked hard on the word combinations the wonderful speech therapist patiently practiced with me. Guess what? Only rarely when I am really tired does my tongue not do what it was trained to do. Fortunately, although I also tried with great discipline not to be gay, I never succeeded.

So this was a bit of my life history I carried into an appointment this morning with a specialist who recently spent time with my daughter. Also present were the school’s two counselors, my husband, and Ellen’s teacher. I told myself, “Rüdiger, go in with an open mind and heart. You are working with caring, good people who have all kinds of expertise. Listen closely, even if you hear what you may not want to hear.”

I was stunned when the specialist said, “Your daughter is very bright and catches on quickly. Her articulation is good. She has a minor frontal lisp with the s and z.”

I gathered myself. A new person has just joined Team Ellen. My gut said, “She’s right for my daughter.” Even better, Ellen and I now have something else in common: we both will become masters of those Ss and Zs!

Sommernachmittag

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