"There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?"
This message has weighed heavily on my heart.
A message I know myself and all growing children with Apraxia wish to express, but one I know parents and guardians refuse to hear.
Lately, via social media posts, I have noticed the clear crossroads that a child with Apraxia faces as they mature.
Do they stay in speech therapy in middle/high school? Or do they try leaving therapy and testing it with the "normal" kids?
There's never a fully right or wrong answer to these questions. Some children are even dismissed early from therapy, avoiding this battle altogether. While others are not dismissed and do face this crossroad.
I was one of the few not officially dismissed. At fifteen, I personally quit speech therapy.
That choice was not warmly welcomed by parents nor by my SLP's, but they respected my choice.
My choice wasn't even based on wisdom and maturity, something that most teenagers and pre-teens lack anyways.
I based my decision on practicality along with my heavy interest in attending the best University I could. I knew what colleges wanted to see on an application and, I assure you, they wanted to see dedication to sports, academics, and extra-curriculars. Not a 16 year commitment to speech therapy.
My selfish passion to be a normal teen drove my decision. The driving urge to be "normal" and not the girl pulled out of classes. Nor the girl sacrificing her hobbies and sports for something as boring as therapy.
Now as an adult, it's easy to defend and stand by my decision. At the time; however, my choice had consequences.
The main consequence was that I needed to PROVE myself to SLP's, teachers, and even my own parents and extended family that I no longer needed speech therapy, even though my speech indicated otherwise, and that I could find success without it.
Do you know how intimidating that was? Making a lifelong choice, at the age of fifteen and knowing not a single person agreed, but at least respected it?
I failed and succeeded various times. But at least I tried. Even with my funny accent, I had and still give a 100% of my efforts in anything I do. That is what Apraxia gives children, despite the lack of a voice in early childhood, Apraxia gives us a work ethic that most adults can't even fathom.
I see Facebook posts about parents and guardians wanting to hold their child back: keep them in therapy even though they do not want to attend throughout high school, home school them to avoid bullies in public school, etc.
As guardians you know what is best for your child. You were with them throughout everything, of course you know what's best. But, you are also only human as well. And as humans, we do everything to protect what and who we love.
After the Apraxia diagnosis, you noticed "walls" around your child.
The wall of poor verbal communication, the wall of learning difficulties, and the wall of misbehavior.
As they age, certain walls collapse and new walls grow.
As your child ages, I caution you to ensure that outside causes, such as Apraxia, are producing your child's walls; that their walls are not self-produced out of your own fears, insecurities, and anxiety.
If you create these walls around your child to protect yourself, your child will pay the price.
What price is that exactly?
The price of never maximizing their potential nor their success.
I do not have a child myself and I'm only twenty-three, so what would I possibly know? I suppose those factors disqualify me from being the guru of fantastic parenting; however, it should not undermine my message.
I was a child once with Apraxia. Now I'm an adult who recognizes that my parents could have easily built these walls.
They could have forced speech therapy against my will, but they did not.
Their choice to let me pursue what I wanted ultimately produced my success and true happiness. They let me explore new walls; and these walls were either successfully torn down or completely kicked my a**.
But that's what happens; that's the crossroads where a child is becoming their own person, their own adult despite a disorder.
As parents and guardians you have a choice:
Do you build walls around your child as a means to settle your own fears?
Or do you respect their journey, the beautiful chaos of new arising walls, and remain ready to catch them when they fall again?