Thanks to a device that resembles a hearing aid and does go in his ear, Zachary Harrell can talk a little easier.
Harrell and his mother thanked the Effingham Sunrise Rotary Club on Tuesday morning for their help in procuring a SpeechEasy for Harrell, a student at Guyton Elementary School.
Harrell’s stuttering was severe, his mother Cindi Lampp said. Once he got the SpeechEasy in early fall, “it went to 89 percent better,” she said.
The SpeechEasy device, however, is expensive. It can cost as much as $4,700.
Rotary Club member Bill Dasher heard Beth Larrimore of Savannah Speech and Hearing Center talk about the SpeechEasy at a Lions Club meeting. He asked her to speak to the Sunrise Rotary Club. Her presentation on the device and its success rate — 96 percent — swayed the club members to do something.
“Billy Dasher pushed other Rotary Clubs that this is something that needs to be done,” Sunrise club president Ace Herring said.
The club asked the Effingham school system if there were students who could be helped. Club member and United Way of Effingham executive director Bonnie Dixon was visiting Guyton Elementary and discovered a student in need of help was there.
“The Rotary Club went to the school and asked the teachers if there was anyone who could use it,” Lampp said.
“Several teachers said they had and they were all thinking about Zach.”
Harrell was tested quickly and he had the SpeechEasy three weeks later.
“It has been a great help,” said Guyton Elementary speech therapist Debbie Sikes.
According to Dasher, one of the first things Harrell said after getting it and using it was, “The boys and girls at school won’t make fun of me anymore.”
“It does make a difference,” Larrimore said. “It does change lives. It changed his life.”
The SpeechEasy works on the choral effect, since stutterers have an easier time if they are singing or speaking with a group in unison. According to SpeechEasy, when someone wears a SpeechEasy device and speaks, their words are digitally replayed in their ear with a very slight delay and frequency modification. As a result, the brain perceives that it is speaking in unison with another person.
“He hears himself,” Sikes said. “If they speak in rhythm, he hears you twice.”
The family even has a name for it, calling it JoJo. How profound has its impact been? Before he had it, friends rarely called to speak with Harrell because he had so much difficulty talking with them.
“Now we say, ‘You’ve been on the phone long enough,’” Lampp said.