Apraxia and A Twisted Sense of Humor

Any moment I verbally communicate, I am vulnerable to an individual's curiosity about my speech or my 'accent.'

Just imagine-any opportunity you talk is an opportunity for someone to ask about your speech. In the grocery store, the bank, at work, even on a date and out with girlfriends, I have been and will always be asked about my speech.

When I talk, my speech is a dead giveaway that there's something different about me. I know this and I've grown accustomed to it.

You could probably imagine the natural frustration that comes with this. Always being asked, "So, it sounds like you have an accent..." I try not to let their curiosity or inquisitive questions bother me. I often consider the alternatives and silver linings: at least I am no longer nonverbal, at least now I can tell people about my speech, at least I have a voice.

My friends and family, perhaps get more frustrated when people ask about my speech. So much so they often ask, "Don't you ever get tired of explaining your speech?"

I usually chuckle and say, "No, it's fine. I'm used to it."

However, this is only partially true. I am used to explaining my speech and, frankly I am very good at it. I amiably can address their curiosity by explaining Apraxia and I often go out of my way to ensure that 1) I never seem insecure and 2) They never feel bad for asking.

But, am I fine with their questions?

I will let you in on a little secret: Of course I sometimes get tired of explaining my speech! Explaining my 'funny accent' to curious strangers is irritating at times. The fact I have done so for fifteen years does not help either.

Sure, I'm used to explaining my speech and it's just a course of my daily life now, but that doesn't alleviate the occasional frustration. I especially get irritated when I'm in a hurry or when I've just had a rough day and somebody asks about my speech. Sigh.

However, to settle my irritation, I have some fun with my funny accent.

Here's how typical conversations occur:

Stranger hears me and asks, "Where are you from? It sounds like you have an accent..."

And I quickly respond in one of two ways:                   

1.   Casually explain my childhood speech disorder and how it now sounds like an accent.                                                       

2. I tell white lies to avoid, yet again, having to explain Apraxia

Alright, alright I know the latter is not the most pure and righteous thing to do. But I'm only human and I figured that if I have this 'funny accent,' I might as well have some fun with it, right?

I really hope you don't think I'm a horrible person for doing so, but as my friend said previously, my 'twisted sense of humor' at least helps me make it through the occasional annoyances of being asked about my speech.

Below are some responses I have given (besides the obvious one of 'I had Apraxia') when asked about my speech. Please note, these are only when I'm not in the mood nor have the time to discuss Apraxia:

1. People persistently try to guess where I'm from, because they are "...really good at identifying accents." I'll agree to whatever they guess. 

Ah, the persistent individuals who try to guess where I'm from no matter what I say about Apraxia. Seriously, I can say 'No it's a speech disorder' and they say, "No, no, no; I know that accent." 

The most comical moment was when my close friend and I had just finished swimming at the YMCA. We spoke with a YMCA employee and he was so adamant on guessing where I was from. He listed ten different countries with no regard to my explanation of, "It's a speech disorder- not an accent."

Eventually I decided to just agree to the next country he said. Quickly and excitedly, he exclaimed, "Ah I got it-you're from South Africa!"

I smiled and said, "Yes! How'd you know!" He was so proud that he had guessed correctly, but my friend and I knew the truth. Thinking I escaped this awkward exchange, that went out the window when he later asked,"What city?"

I did not know a single one. I was thirteen at the time, what was I supposed to know about South Africa?  I made up some city, but it was evident that I had no idea what I was talking about.

Moral of the Story-If you're going to lie about where you're from, it helps to know a single city from that country. 

2. "An Evil Sea Witch stole my other voice and gave me an accent"
I know I'm not The Little Mermaid, but a girl can pretend can't she?

This one always works with younger kids who ask about my speech. You should see their faces. Some kids respond with "We have to find the Sea Witch and get your other voice back!" or those that question the existence of an Evil Sea Witch, I respond, "I thought that too, until I went to the beach and saw the evil sea witch for myself." They still seem hesitant, but they usually consider how an evil sea witch stole my voice. Or perhaps they just think I'm odd for creating that story, but at least they quit asking about my speech entirely. 

3. I'm from England
If I know I will never see this individual again and they ask about my speech, I share my fake background story about how "I was originally from England, but my parents moved to the States when I was about seven for work." They ask what city and I whip up: London, Bristol, Nottingham, etc.

Trust me-this 'I'm from England' is definitely a good one. Unless of course I'm talking to someone from England then I would never say this (I learned that lesson the hard way too).

I've said, "I'm from England "more times than I can count. I've said this in school to get crushes out of my league to give me school tours. I've even said this to strangers at bars because the last thing I'd like to discuss over my Vodka Cranberry is my past neurological, speech disorder. I'm only twenty-three, there are other bar topics I'd obviously prefer to discuss.

So, do I get tired or annoyed answering and defending my speech? Yes, sometimes I do.

But I try to make the most of it by having my own fun, by saying how an evil sea witch stole my voice and creating fake background stories on how I'm from South Africa or England.

Of course the best response I could give is the HONEST one. I now utilize my voice as an asset to share knowledge and awareness about Apraxia when I do tell curious strangers the truth about my speech. When I'm in a decent mood (and not an impatient, disingenuous human being) I'll usually respond with, "Oh I had this speech disorder Apraxia and now it sounds like an accent." Most people take it well and actually think it's cool, whereas some get embarrassed for even asking and apologize to me. Either way though, I at least have the satisfaction of spreading Apraxia Awareness and that is truly the best reward of my honesty.

The biggest drawback though, is when anyone asks about my speech, regardless of my response, I cannot help but feel they are more attentive to how I sound more so than the content of my words. Perhaps that's why I've always been drawn to expanding my vocabulary and even writing. At least with an advanced vocabulary and written language, others would focus more on the content of my words rather than the sound and pronunciation of them.