Friendships & Apraxia

If you’re ever in a jam, here I am
If you’re ever in a mess, S-O-S

If you ever feel so happy, you land in jail; I’m your bail.
It’s friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.
When other friendships have been forgot,
Ours will still be hot. -I Love Lucy

Often, people ask how I made childhood friends given Apraxia. To be frank though, do you even know how you made friends in school?

I'm sure you know where you met your close friends, like in a classroom, on the playground, or on a sports team. But the question of how extends beyond the physical location.

I can actually identify how I met most of my childhood friends. My Aunt and Mom knew I needed more socialization, hence they started a Girl Scout Troop when I was in 2nd grade where I could spend time with others in a setting they could supervise.

I remained friends with most of the girls throughout Elementary School and College. Girl Scouts honestly is how I made friends and where I learned to interact with others. The confidence I gained carried into school, where I became comfortable introducing myself to others.Thanks to my confidence and my experience with Girl Scouting, now I just talk too much, but that's a whole other issue.

There's one friend in particular that I cannot describe how we became friends, which honestly is a relief. True friendship should not be defined by some organized plan; our friendship was natural and organic. It was based off a judgement-free understanding and respect for one another. As an adult, I recognize it is a truly rare friendship.

Her name is Nicole and yesterday was her birthday. In part of celebrating her awesomeness, I also wanted to share her with the Apraxia community. She truly does exemplify the type of person that any child with Apraxia, any speech disorder, or disability should have.

My family and I moved to a new neighborhood, Burbank, around 1997-1998 when I was five years old. Burbank had better schools and, compared to our last home, it was a lot safer.

My mom and I walked around the block, exploring the neighborhood and meeting new neighbors.

Merely five houses down, we met Michella and her four year old daughter, Nicole.

Nonverbal, unintelligible, and shy - my communication with our new neighbors was rather limited.

Nicole on the other hand was talking and rather curious.

It felt like hours of conversing between my Mom and Michella, but it may have been only a few minutes. Meanwhile, I hid behind my Mom's legs and squeezed her, sheepishly staring at Nicole and Michella.

My Mom pressured me to, "Say Hi to Nicole..."

I hid further behind my mother. Nicole, on the other hand, approached closer, curious as to why and what I was hiding from.

I'm sure she said hello to me and tried to converse, but I had nothing to say. Nicole didn't mind, she was unphased and continued talking.

I suppose Michella and my Mom organized a play-date; on another afternoon, Nicole came over to our house to play.

Play-dates were strange to me, but granted this was my first real play-date and I wasn't really well-versed. You could just imagine the awkwardness though-we have an energetic, inquisitive Nicole and a nonverbal, Apraxic Aly.

Little did we know though, this awkwardness would transform into a 19 year old friendship.

When she came over to play, I pulled out my favorite toys-my Barbies.

Rummaging through toy boxes, I handed her dolls, clothes, and the infamous Barbie Dream House.

By this point, I talked to her, but I'm pretty sure most of it was unintelligible blabbering. But here's the beauty-she never said "Huh? What are you saying?"

We played Barbies for a while, but after some time she asked for a ball and to play outside.

We quickly discovered I was the Barbie-indoors girl and she was the athletic-outdoors girl. We discovered this, once again, with a very limited vocabulary. We eventually played outside and ate lunch together.

This play-date was one of the first conversations I recall with Nicole, and honestly I don't even know how we communicated.

With my poor verbal communication, I have no idea how Nicole understood me. But, somehow she did. She saw past my speech, and we've been friends ever since.

Words cannot describe the comfort her friendship provided me throughout my childhood.

While other classmates noted my 'funny accent,' Nicole  always responded with, "What are you talking about? Alyson speaks fine."

Even when she joined my Dad and I to attend Speech Therapy, it was never awkward. She'd ask what I did in the session and how cool the toys and games were in the waiting room.

She was the first, non-family member that treated me like the normal kid I wanted to be. I spent days and weeks in Elementary and Middle School feeling isolated, weird, and different thanks to the clear distinction between me in special-ed and other peers in normal classes. But when I was with fastest runner and one of the smartest girls, Nicole; I was normal.

She treated me like any other girl, not a special-ed student, not a speech therapy patient. I was her best friend. I wonder if other kids thought it was strange that Nicole was friends with someone like me, I wonder that too, but at the time it never crossed my mind. The fact that she befriended and defended me when possible, when frankly I could never repay that debt amazes me. But to this day, that is just the kind of person she is.

Any impediment I had, it never phased Nicole. My speech? She never commented on it. My clumsiness when attempting a basketball layup? She never laughed at me. She actually helped me.

Of course, I always remained a poor basketball player and she finally acknowledged that when she said my layups were, " a ballerina's-it's too pretty for basketball."

Point is-I could do nothing wrong. I wasn't special or delayed in Nicole's eyes. I was Alyson.

I wish more people had a Nicole in their life. When I see Apraxia Facebook Posts with parent's concerns about their children's friendships, I wish that a person like Nicole comes their way. Nicole is a part of our family, she's my sister, and my parent's welcomed her with open arms after seeing how well we got along.

Our friendship alone restores my faith that there are those that befriend one another despite their abilities. Happy Birthday Nicole! Thanks for being living proof for me and for everyone reading this, that friendship is possible regardless of any disability, disorder, and even if you don't have a voice.