Sharing My Story: Inland Empire Walk for Children with Apraxia
I made myself a mighty promise as an elementary school kid. After trying to say "Here" during attendance -some kids made a comment about how funny I sounded. I was beyond humiliated and even considered never trying to speak again. I swore that I would do whatever possible to ensure that other kids that spoke "funny" would never feel isolated and put down. As an adult, I feel that speaking, being involved, and volunteering for Apraxia children is my way of fulfilling this promise. Hence, why I participated and choose to speak at this Apraxia Walk.
I attended and spoke at the Inland Empire Walk for Children with Apraxia of Speech in early October (I know this is an overdue post). Along with the beautiful weather and a clean park, the uplifting energy through the crowd resulted in such a positive afternoon. There were parents talking to one another about their children's Apraxia, kids playing together in the jungle-gym, and supportive members reading the information presented on display boards.
There was an opening ceremony where the Walk Coordinator spoke and shared her and her daughter's Apraxia story. Then it was my turn.
I walked up a small green hill and the Walk Coordinator handed the microphone over to me. I stared out to a large crowd of concerned parents, children, and supportive members to share my story. I was ready- with my speech typed out and in my hands.
Mind you, this speech took me a week of a cyclical, unproductive process: think, write, erase. I must have written 20 different speeches, but this one was the final one. Whenever I speak about my Apraxia, I decide if I want a sad story or a happy one. I always deliver a pleasant one, as my Apraxia Adventure is not a sad tale. Sure, I hated the bullies and I'm still embarrassed to order the #4 at Taco Bell since I can't say it correctly, but ultimately I choose happiness.
At this event, I emphasized 2 points in my speech:
1. We are not defined by what we struggle with.
We know Superman as SuperMAN- not as the guy who can't hold Kryptonite. An Apraxic child should not be defined as merely the "kid who talks funny." Parents are also not defined by having an Apraxic child, but by their commitment to help their kids succeed and be the best they can be.
2. Hard work is the only way to achieve your goals (Apraxia or not)
We Apraxia kids learn this at a very young age; mainly because we must learn and attend special classes/therapies to do what most children naturally learn. We need to learn how to speak.
After speaking, I chatted with other Apraxia community members. Various participants thanked me for attending and commented on my speech, but it's truly them I should be thanking. They are the ones expanding this Apraxia community through social media, informational pamphlets, and interacting with their local schools to ensure their child receives the necessary services and their child's educators know what Apraxia is. These parents and supporters are those helping children who "speak funny" an opportunity to succeed.
I noticed at this event, as well as previous social media posts, that several parents wonder what their kid will grow up to be like. I suppose all parents wonder that, with Apraxia or not. If I can just share what Apraxia is like as a young adult and attend events such as these, then I will eventually achieve my enormous goal of ensuring that no child feels isolated due to their struggle to verbally communicate.