Qualified to Inspire

Early in the Fourth Grade semester, Miss Kelly began to take our attendance.

Once again, I was dreading this moment. Anxiety and the butterflies in my stomach, knowing I'd have to say a word I cannot say correctly in front of my classmates.

She went through the list of names, it felt like eternity. My pounding heart deafening my ears, it was difficult to hear. Nausea and the room seemingly getting smaller; it felt like she'd never say my name!

She finally said, "Alyson Taylor."

My heart stopped. I heard my name.

What do I do again? Oh-I remember!

I shot my hand up and said,  "Here!"

She noted my presence.

Some jerk boy behind me chuckled and mocked me, "Heeee-uhhhh."

I tucked my head downwards; staring at my desk and disregarding his comment.

My good friend, Ashley, who sat close by and comforted me with, "Ignore him."

I smiled, at least I had a friend beside me and one that knew this guy was being a jerk.

Despite this reassurance though, I was also bothered.

The fact that I had to ignore this kid and felt the need to look downwards. I was upset that I felt insecure and there was nothing I could really do about it.

I finally had a voice, but it wasn't the 'perfect' voice. Thus, I wasn't capable of really standing up for myself.

Miss Kelly began teaching, but I wasn't paying attention. I was daydreaming about things I could do as an adult that would show critics, like that boy, that he shouldn't make fun of me. Maybe be President? I can write a book?

Regardless, I swore that one day I'd make sure no kid feels like this. There's just got to be other kids like me out there. I'll help them somehow.

Ms. Kelly knew I wasn't paying attention, she called on me to answer a question (not sure what she even asked honestly) and broke my day dreamy trance.

Fast forward to now, I feel that I'm on my way to accomplishing my fourth grade goal of ensuring no one feels insecure with their speech, or any disorder.

I had applied to speak at CASANA's Conference for Childhood Apraxia of Speech. (CASANA is the national non-profit for Childhood Apraxia). It takes place in San Diego during the first week of July.

To be honest, I had always wanted to speak at such a venue. Publicly speaking about a cause I care about has been a personal goal of mine; it also helps fulfill my passion to assist children and families currently battling the speech disorder.

Who would have thought my 4th grade wish would actually come true.

Applying for this was intimidating. I looked at past conferences and every speaker was either a professional, doctorate, speech pathologist, and the occasional parent of a child diagnosed. These are all full grown, professional adults, whom definitely have more professional experience than me and let's not even discuss the obvious age gap.

But the only thought I have usually when applying or trying new things like this is: What's the worst that can happen?

Famous last words, but also a great motivation to act uninhibitedly.

The past two weeks, I was convinced that CASANA would not email me back.

I had a messy handwritten application. Even under "Title," I just made up one, saying I was an "Apraxia Advocate." Sounded good to me, right?

When I did receive the email, I skimmed through it just to find the universal line of rejection. It had to be in there somewhere. Seriously, I was highly doubting that they'd accept my presentation, despite how much I wanted to present.

I was quite surprised though when I read the email and there was no rejection. There was no infamous rejection line saying, "Unfortunately, we were unable to..."

I kept on skimming through the message, but my nerves were settled as soon as I saw the words, "the presentation was accepted" and "Look forward to seeing you in San Diego."

No way!

I called my dad, in which with his father-like practicality noted, "I guess we are going to San Diego."

Then I called my mom.

She, of course, was excited and proud.

She had said, "Look I was just being supportive, but I didn't think we'd actually be presenting. I hope I don't start crying." (My mom is also presenting with me; she would definitely provide a parental perspective that I may not fully comprehend in regards to raising a child with Apraxia).

Of course I retorted, "You're telling me, I did an entire application for something I knew I wouldn't get accepted for..."

Seriously. Neither of us thought that we would be invited to speak at this conference.

I never thought that anyone would want a speech-disorder, funny accent girl to even speak in front of such a large group of people.

There's various emotions I have right now about this.

Happy, proud and excited about this opportunity; I ended up crying tears of joy in the bathroom at work for a solid ten minutes. Thinking about how much this means to me and how for once, I feel that my weakness is now my greatest life passion. Growing from that 4th grade girl who could only dream of helping others in their speech journeys, to a woman who is actually serving that same cause.

Despite my excitement, let's be honest, I am also quite intimidated.

This conference, if anything like the past, will have a majority of professionals, those that have studied Apraxia through the lenses of textbooks, classes, or speech pathology sessions.

Their definitions will be very different from mine. I'm excited to offer my unique perspective and angle, of course, but it will differ from the majority of the presenters there.

My only goal for this presentation is inspiration. I wish to give every single attendee the feeling that, one day, their child diagnosed with Apraxia can be up there and giving a full-length presentation as well.

But inspiring others in a sea of other presentations that provide solid, scientific facts and techniques. It's rough. I'm asking the crowd to acknowledge these facts, but let's consider the emotional aspects of Apraxia as well. Let's use my life with this disorder as an example.

By no means am I intending to undermine the professionals' words or perspectives, but I am seeking to co-implement the feelings and emotions involved in an Apraxia journey. This is uncharted territory. It is difficult for professionals to learn and truly understand from a textbook. It is difficult for parents, who have only witnessed it only as a supportive parent to their child diagnosed, to fully grasp what the disorder is like for their child.

As I stand among other speakers who have dedicated their professional lives to the study of speech, disorders, and Apraxia, my only qualification is that I have lived it.

It's a strange position being an equivalent speaker to these professionals. The girl who was diagnosed with Apraxia will be speaking alongside those that have fully studied and dedicated their professions to it? It's a strange feeling and it's definitely intimidating.

Deep down, I believe though that despite their impressive resumes, I am equally qualified in my own merits to speak at this conference. That I truly am an equivalent speaker in my own right.

As long as I remain diligent, confident, and of course with the mentality of what's the worst that can happen, how on earth could I fail? My mission is to ensure every attendee leaves with more positivity, hope, and inspiration than what they entered with.

I believe I will achieve exactly this. My largest source of confidence and empowerment for this? The desire to provide hope. Hope is exactly what my family and I had wanted for years, yet could not find despite all our research and work. We had to find hope the hard way, by celebrating the small victories and finding techniques to be successful. Who better to provide hope to others than us; those that went out and claimed it for themselves, those who believed they were worthy enough to remain hopeful despite the speech pathology and special education reports saying otherwise.

If interested in researching or attending the Conference please click here for more information.