Find The Food Coloring- Oh, And The Listeners Too!

We are Apraxia spokespeople and everyone is a potential listener. We must find and tell them about this speech disorder as well as other speech delays. These listeners are the strangers at your grocery store, teachers, neighbors, and friends that have no clue what Apraxia is. Even though we want to yell and lash out at them for not understanding, we must acquire these listeners through persistent patience, kindness, and just casual conversations about the speech disorder. Indeed, there are nasty people that could not respect or grasp the concept of such a neurological disorder, but there are always those that will listen and learn. This is the only way to perpetuate Apraxia understanding and acceptance from those who simply would not have known otherwise.

Sixteen years of Speech Therapy ingrained a personal, unique hatred of the letter "R."You would hate it too, if you had sixteen years of audio recordings, worksheets, and homework to say every word in the English language with an "R."

I can pronounce several R-words now, even if it's with an accent or some sort of drawl, and those that I struggle with I somehow manage.

For instance, I quickly adapt when simply ordering my favorite Taco Bell  #4 Combo (it's a Mexican Pizza and 2 soft tacos, if you're curious). I hear myself say the "R" in "Four," but I actually drop the "R" at the end. So instead of "four," it sounds like, "Fou," or the cashier assumes "five."

To avoid this mishap, I enter the building and order the "Number Four" and lift 4 fingers up to visually signal. The cashier always understands when visually cue, albeit perplexed as to why I'm holding my fingers up to begin with.

I even have a back-up plan for the drive-thru, I say "The Mexican Pizza combo" to avoid saying the cursed word "Four."  I address my point at Taco Bell and frankly,  the extra effort either holding my fingers up or changing certain words to order my favorite combo is worth it.

Outside of the local Taco Bell, I usually adjust my word choice and communication based on instincts and who I am talking to. However, verbal correspondences and my personal patience are swiftly compromised when I do not adapt and do not foresee a miscommunication.

I'm at a level of communication where several people understand me with the occasional mishap. And these mishaps? No problem! Sure, my pronunciation just isn't as clear as it should be and I re-clarify what I'm trying to say. Usually, I amiably respond,  "Oh, it's a funny speech issue I had as a kid..." and then rephrase my intended word.

I'd be disingenuous though to claim that these situations are not irritating and that I always remain amiable in my responses. I'm only human and, yes, I occasionally lash out due to impatience and frustration during a miscommunication.

A couple weekends ago; I lashed out.

I was at a local grocery store on a quest for cake ingredients for a Halloween Baking Contest at work. Grocery shopping is absolutely grueling, especially if you're a baking rookie and clueless as to where anything is. With lack of baking experience and overwhelmed with the various types of sugar in the baking aisle, I wanted to leave this grocery store as quickly as possible.

I successfully found the majority of necessary ingredients without having to ask for an employee's help. I'm a bit too stubborn and prideful to ask for help, even when I need it. Food coloring was the last item on my list and I just couldn't find it. After a 15-minute hunt, I regrettably knew it was time to request assistance.

I found a young employee, he was in the baking aisle and putting stock on the shelves, and decided to ask for help:

I inquired, "Excuse me, by chance do you have any food coloring?"

He looked up, perplexed, and replied, "Um, food kahLORing?"
(His pronunciation: emphasize the "OR" and shorten the "K").

Oh no, a communication mishap is arising.

I casually responded with hopes this pronunciation would work, "Yes, coloring"

He asked, "So, food kahLORing, um I haven't heard of that-what is it?"

Would it be appropriate to rip my hair out in public right now? I'm exhausted and I haven't even started baking yet-I'm done. I shouldn't have signed up, I can't even bake! And this guy- oh this guy-actually hears my "R" in 'coloring' but can't seem to put together "KahLORing" and "Coloring."

I responded,"It's the liquid die you put into cakes and food to change the color of it."

This is the best way to describe "food-coloring," right? Oh no-he's a young guy-he doesn't bake!

He's a deer in the headlights now and I'm beyond exasperated.

With concern and confusion, he replied, "I'll ask my supervisor; it's food kahLORing right?"

That's it! The straw that broke the camel's back.

In a short, frustrated tone, I retorted "Yes, you know, how children use crayons for their coloring books? I need food COLORING"

Phew, I got my point across! Oh no, he has the face; I hope I didn't sound too mean...

He gave the look that employees give when a customer is snippy with them, and grudgingly said, "Oh, it's right here" and pointed to the shelf right next to him. Literally four steps away from where I stood.

I tried to improve the situation by thanking him and admitting how silly I felt for not finding it. The deed was done though; I snapped and was another unhinged, grocery store lady he dealt with that day. Obviously, he left that aisle as fast as he could.

Heads Up, Happy Ending: I got 2nd Place in the Baking Contest! 
In hindsight, as I've shared this story with a couple friends and family, there is the possibility that he was mocking my speech. Being teased quite often as a kid and an adult, I can easily recognize it and usually the bully smirks or chuckles as they comment on my speech. He did not do this nor did he give that impression he was teasing. I'd like to believe that he's a better person than that and simply misunderstood.

I regret snapping and becoming the angry, grocery store lady. It's rude and I could've told him about Apraxia instead. When I lash out after struggling to communicate, others become understandably apathetic and do not wish to further converse. Thus, an inhospitable environment to educate others about Apraxia.

Rather, if I'm cordial or light-hearted about the communication mishap and say "Oh, it's this little speech issue I had as a kid." They pause and ask, "Oh what is it?" and I further educate them about Apraxia.

An opportunity was missed by retorting at this individual; I chose to act in frustration whereas I could have responded in my lighthearted manner. If he was a bully,  he wouldn't have cared to listen about Apraxia and, if he was not a bully, he may have briefly listened.