Little Did I Know

If you truly wish to witness the disorder as an Apraxic child, then you must think like a child. Children cannot fully comprehend what "neurological" means nor the mechanics of how a brain tells a mouth how to move.

Do not think like a speech pathologist and analyze where Apraxia comes from nor how to treat it.

Do not think like an Apraxic child's parent who views Apraxia as an insurance battle.

Think like a kid: you crave play-dates, friends at school, and macaroni and cheese for dinner with a side of ice-cream.

Imagine, it is the first day of school. Excitedly nervous, you hope to meet a friend and survive this new place.

Dressed in new school clothes, you enter a brightly colored classroom with a plethora of toys and kids all around. Saying their goodbyes and promising to return later, your parents leave and a wave of emotions from anxiety and excitement overcome you.

There are kids your own age running around, playing, laughing; perhaps school may not be too awful.

In the sea of children, a girl walks up to says, "Hi, I'm Lucy."

Smiling at this new opportunity, you respond "Hi I'm ____."

Laughing and speaking between breaths, she asks, "What are you saying?"

With frustration, you reply, "I'm _____."

Laughing again, she calls someone else over to see if they understand you.

You say it again, "My name is ___."

No luck, and now these two kids are laughing and mocking you with unintelligible gibberish.

You ponder and wonder, confused as to what just happened:

     Why are they saying this gibberish- I surely did not say that. 

     I know what I'm saying, I know what's coming out of my mouth, 
    how can these kids not understand?!

Welcome to Apraxia.

I was unaware that I spoke differently for quite some time. In my mind, I was thinking in pure English,  speaking in pure English, but others were not hearing pure English.

The frustration for Apraxia kids, at least for myself, is not that we cannot physically produce our desired words. It is the fact we actually think we are communicating correctly, when in reality we are not.

Hence, there is confusion and my childhood consisted of thinking others were strange for not understanding my speech. If I was speaking correctly, then others are nuts for not understanding me, right?

The personal realization of my peculiar speech came in 3rd grade from no other than my little sister, Sara. Not my speech pathologist, my parents, nor a teacher; a babbling toddler unintentionally pressured me to admit just how severe my speech was.

The family was driving to the movie theaters and my sister and I were in the backseat talking. It was a fun time to be an older sister as my younger sister, Sara, was speaking more and I could teach her new words.

We would converse back and forth; I'd say a word and Sara would try to repeat:

I looked at her and I'd ask, "Say, 'Aly.'"
My little sister.

She'd excitedly say, "Lolly!"

I'd ask again, " Can you say, 'Boo!'"

She'd yell, "Boo!"

And I'd ask again, "Can you say, 'Rose?'"

She said, "Wwwose!"

I smiled and said, "Close- Rrrrrrrrrooose!"

She said again, "Wwwwwwoooooosse!"

We went back and forth several times, but to no avail. No matter how many times I said, "rose" my sister would always reply, "wose."

My parents intervened and pronounced it correctly, then of course my sister finally said it correctly as well.

Content that she finally said the word, I was frustrated as well. I never said "Wose," I was saying, "Rose." My sister knew how to say R's and I thought I did too, so why was she speaking like that?

I complained about how I had already said that, but my parents only reminded me to pull my tongue back when saying R-words.

At nine years old, I felt it was strange that my parents were teaching me how to speak at the same time my 2-3 year old sister was learning how to. In this brief moment, I had a variety of emotions- embarrassment, frustration, and shock.

Why was I still learning how to speak when my sister is so much younger than me? I am not a baby-I know how to talk. Why...

Then it dawned on me; a moment of clarity in the irrational, naive brain of a nine year old:

     Speech therapy was for a legitimate reason.

     People truly heard me like my own little sister had heard me.

     I was the different one when I had previously thought others were strange.

     I spoke differently, so teachers, speech pathologists, classmates treated me 
    differently since, to them, I was different.

Another throwback picture of my sister and I.
As a result of my sister simply mimicking "wose," a wave of enlightening thoughts had hit me in such a abrupt moment of personal reflection. One would have thought I would have realized this all sooner. I would have acknowledged my difference in my kindergarten special-ed class or when excused from my first and second grade 'normal' classes to attend speech therapy. I felt and knew my isolation and strange separation from other kids, but I assumed it was them isolating themselves from my normalcy. From this moment, I had no other choice but to accept my abnormality. I accepted it for my own mental health and to begin overcoming my problem; if I acknowledged my difference then I could overcome it.

At the young age of nine, I also realized that it's not only just admitting my speech issue to myself, but I must convince others that I was like them. If I truly wanted friends and taken seriously in school, I must convince others that I was normal despite my abnormality. If I did not want people to view me as different and strange, then I must prove that I was normal.

Frankly, I had no idea how to convince others I was normal when consistently branded as "different" or "special." It would all fall into place if I just, perhaps, kept fighting: fighting for nice friends, fighting against bullies, and fighting for my education by working hard. I only fought for the hope and belief that if I did so, then perhaps I can be normal and no longer isolated.

Ensuring a weakness no longer controls you is a difficult concept for any child to understand, yet alone succeed in. Little did I know at the time how difficult it is to fight for normalcy and acceptance in a world that uses your weaknesses against you, to differentiate you, to marginalize you. Society will forever brand you with a weakness regardless, but ultimately this difference or abnormality is never a weakness unless you let it control and dictate your life. This is our true, individual power against the harshness of an underestimating society, they cannot control you by your difference if it is not your ultimate weakness.

**Please note, I vehemently dislike categorizing children as "normal" and "different," but I felt the need to utilize such words as this is how I felt and perceived my peers at the time**