Did you know that many well-known film and television actors of have had to overcome speech or language challenges? That list includes Bruce Willis who struggled with stuttering; Eric Roberts who also grappled with stuttering, and his sister, Julia Roberts, who had to overcome her speech impairment. Bill Withers who wrote and sang, “When a Man Loves a Woman” also had a speech challenge.

Samuel L. Jackson, James E. Jones and Carly Simon all were stutterers – as was the author of this article. We know that Barbara Walters has had her challenge with lisping. And the singer, performer, and benefactor, Bono, also struggled with speech ‘problems.’

Anthony Hopkins was dyslexic and had both a stammer and a lisp! Even Queen Elizabeth’s father, the King of England, accepted professional help to “deal with,” if not completely overcome, his struggle.

Imagine these familiar faces as children struggling not only with the language problems, but also the heckling and abuse rained on them by their peers and unthinking adults. Imagine the children who did not receive help and have reached seniority, but cannot get a job because they cannot make themselves understood. Children who could become doctors, architects or lawyers because they have the intelligence to achieve those goals, but cannot make themselves understood. Children who, given the opportunity, could become the next Senator Dirksen, Churchill, or Sir Laurence Olivier – but they cannot make themselves understood.

A language or speech impediment is a very serious problem for a child. Without help, that child may never achieve their goals in life. But if the aforementioned actors, performers, and everyday citizens can achieve success in society, then there must be forms of therapy, clinics and professionals with the education and skills to analyze and “correct” these language problems.

We see success stories every day in our Stan and Bobbie Gold RiteCare Childhood Language and Learning Center located in Palm Desert and hosted by the Palm Springs Scottish Rite. The Center has successfully graduated hundreds of kids over the past decade with no cost to their families. We depend on the support of our membership and our Coachella Valley community – the individuals, businesses and other organizations which have been helpful in supporting this great cause.

Look again at the list above – entertainers, the singers, the interviewers, even politicians – who have become successful in the public arena. Then think how easy it is for you who has been given a voice. You can order a sandwich or cordon bleu with fine wine in French without even thinking about your words. It’s a blessing not to overlook.

If you know a child ages 3 to 18 struggling with speech, language, and literacy challenges, we are here to help and to provide professional assistance. We gladly welcome them as one of Our Kids.

James Petersen is board chairman of the Palm Springs Scottish Rite Stan and Bobbie Gold RiteCare Childhood Language and Learning Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 341.6208.

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