School Survival

Back to school time: new clothes, school supplies, and hopefully a child's excitement to meet new friends.

But, for kids with Apraxia? Now back to school can mark a whole slew of different issues.

Nervousness, anxiety and even stress for both parents and children alike.

Recently, Laura the blogger on SLP Mommy of Apraxia reached out to me and shared the struggles of a 2nd grader in Colorado with Apraxia. Frankly, this young girl and I have a lot in common. She struggles with the middle and final /r/ sound, tries to make friends but is irritated when others ask about her 'accent,' and the bigger issue that no one knows what Apraxia is at her age.

I'd love to share her name, but I also want to respect her privacy on the internet for obvious reasons. It's just this second grader is going through the same exact journey I went through in Elementary School. The anxiety, the frustration, and it simply amazes me that even despite all the progress we've made in Apraxia Awareness-kids still feel the same.

I've made a private video message for the 2nd grader and I also booked a spontaneous flight to Colorado to meet her and speak to other families as well. Which, if you knew me, booking spontaneous flights is just not like me. But after hearing this girl's story, I must meet her. Crazy, gut reaction I suppose!

Anyways, as far as what I was going to say in this first video message, I had no idea. Frankly, I just spoke from the heart. Initially brainstorming though, my Mom asked me, "Well, what would you tell yourself in 2nd grade?"

To which, I quickly responded, "Do not let them see you cry."

We laughed, but we all knew I wasn't fully joking. I seriously did tell myself not to cry, I even remember sometimes running to the bathroom stall just to cry. It was almost better to take on being teased for my speech, then it was to be seen crying. Or perhaps that's just my stubborn pride.

I'd say "Here!" Since I did not say it correctly, suddenly eyes would be piercing me and some chuckles erupted. I actually learned to keep my head facing down at my desk to avoid eye-contact with potentially mean kids around me. I lived in constant anxiety, nervousness, and paranoia not due to my speech, but how and if others would accept me and my speech. And, yes, there is a difference.

First day of school for me caused anxiety.

One of my early pre-school classes.
I'm second from the left.
First day of school for my sister, who does not have Apraxia, was exciting.

Isn't it funny how the same experience can leave people with completely, opposite emotions? I can't help but to assume that this discrepancy of emotions between children still exists today. And, just stating the obvious here, it shouldn't exist.

Kids with Apraxia, and any other disorder or disability, should be excited about going to school. Now, why is it they seem to bear more stress, anxiety, and nerves compared to "typical children."

It's simple. For all children, their goal is to fit in and make friends. Think about your early days in elementary school; you were eager to see friends and perhaps make new ones. Or maybe even become popular, right?

Now throw in Apraxia, the special speech therapy, and any other special programs that other kids do not attend-the child with Apraxia already feels distant from this concept of "fitting in." And let's be frank, they know they can't ever be popular if they can't even fit in.

I certainly know this. This constant pressure and anxiety of doing everything and anything to maybe "fit in," to wish daily that not a single person would ask me or chuckle at my speech, to wish that other peers wouldn't see me in Special-Education P.E. Trust me, I know the struggle of wanting to fit in, yet knowing I couldn't even do that.

Worst of all, to constantly feel like an outsider in an educational setting where you have every right to be there and be excited about, is just awful.

So, for kids with Apraxia, going back to school is tough. No doubt about that. And my terrible advice of "Do not let them see you cry," accomplishes nothing. My newfound advice though, may be more beneficial.

We naturally distinguish between kids without Apraxia and kids with Apraxia-as if those are the only two differentiating groups in existence.

But, even those without Apraxia, speak differently too. We all have different voices-it's how when someone speaks you know who is speaking. On the phone, based on the voice, you can usually tell if it's a male or a female. We know when Scooby-Doo talks since he says everything with an "R," like "Ruh-roh." But obviously, Scooby-Doo does not speak like Hannah Montana or Tim McGraw.

Rather than focusing on the obvious differences between Apraxia kids and non-Apraxia kids, one supposedly atypical and the other typical. Perhaps it's better to view "typical" people and note the differences among them. Now, I hope this doesn't come off as super judgmental, but if we note that even those we think are typical are actually all
different in the way they speak, act, and are as a whole-we can shatter this idea that this group of kids are typical and this group of kids are not.

Realize that though we think they are typical, each are very different. The 2nd grade teacher doesn't speak like Bobby, and Bobby doesn't speak like Susie. Not a single person in a "Typical" world speaks the same as another, it's just not possible.

I know it's a tough concept for any kid to understand, but perhaps if we somehow taught them that "fitting in" and this concept of "typical" doesn't exist, perhaps they can find beauty and courage in their own differences.