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Reflecting on Connections

I already have a disorder, do I need to "look" a certain way for you to recognize that I'm not your definition of "normal?"

I suppose if I have a disorder or disability, you're expecting me to look or act a certain way.

It can't actually be possible that I am a high-functioning person with a disorder.

Parents and guardians with children diagnosed, especially with Apraxia, encounter this battle often; the discrepancy of average physical appearances yet different internal abilities.

When an adult converses with your toddler, and given the toddler's difficulty in communicating, you nicely interrupt and explain, "Oh, they're still learning. They have Apraxia, it's a disorder that makes it difficult to speak."

Suddenly, the adult's demeanor changes.

They aren't as engaged in talking to your child because your child can't talk, the child is different, and they aren't who they initially thought. The adult thought your kid was a normal kid. Once they see otherwise, the energy drastically changes.

People adjust their interactive energy based on the fact your outward "normal" appearance no longer equates to your inward thinking or your capabilities.

At first you physically appear "normal," but you open your mouth and the world knows there's something wrong with you.

The initial appearance of normalcy, they discover the lack of "normal" communication, then suddenly the image of normalcy vanishes.  As if it was all a facade. As if you can't be "normal," unless your external and internal qualities align with "normalcy."

It's absurd.

It's frustrating.

It's annoying.

The close-mindedness of it all. The fact that people still believe in this mundane definition of "normalcy" and proceed to change how they treat others based on how others align with their said definition of "normalcy."

Why is the treatment of others based on "normalcy?"

I noticed this treatment as a teenager and even as an adult now. My first encounter was at the mall. I was sixteen years old; shopping with one of my friends and we kept crossing paths with a couple of cute boys. There were smiles, exchanged glances, and just pure teenage, shy flirting. My friend and I separated at Forever 21; we each went to different racks.

One of the guys approached me and asked for my name and where I went to school.

I coyly responded, "Alyson, or Aly. And I go to Burroughs."

His face turned from that of flirtatious curiosity, to that of bewilderment and disappointment.

I just thought he wasn't going to like the school I went to. But that would be too easy.

He smiled awkwardly and responded, "Oh, well, look you're cute, but I didn't know you spoke like that."

Then he left. Gee thanks. He's not that cute anyways.

Once again though, I looked normal and the second he found out I did not speak to his definition of "normal;" the energy changed. He no longer treated me as "normal."

This happens often in less dramatic ways.

Even at the grocery store last week, the cashier and I were having small-talk until she asked me about my accent. When I explained it was a childhood speech disorder called Apraxia, the small-talk subsided and her face just displayed hesitation and awkwardness. Probably due to embarrassment, but still she wasn't embarrassed asking the question so why be embarrassed because you didn't like my answer?

Overall, there is an energy in every conversation we have with others. This energy changes though based on how we size-up the other party. More often than not we do it based on how the other party matches to our definition of "normal," whether it be in ability, intellect, or how well we speak.

Some would say I'm reading too much into this so-called conversational energy, but after seven years of being non-verbal, I notice more than only exchanged words. I read into energy, I even notice whether someone's feet point towards me to measure their engagement. There's various factors involved in communication other than spoken words and, after Apraxia, I notice these subtleties.

Overall, I wish that we valued interactions not based on the party's normalcy, but based on our natural passion to connect with others. After all isn't that why we talk and want to talk to begin with?
That's what makes the Apraxia Journey so distinct; it's the fight for a child to talk and connect with with those around them.












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