Reflecting on growth

Overcoming stereotypes and standards of speech apraxia

Since I was a one-year-old, my life forever changed when I lost all forms of verbal communication unexpectedly.

I grew up just like any other child. According to my mother, I knew how to speak words and would always engage with others with them, just as most one-year-olds would.

Everything stayed normal until my one-year vaccinations. Although vaccines act as an immunization support, my body had the rare chance of reacting negatively and resulted in me losing all my words I once knew, a one-sixth chance according to The National Institutes of Health.

My family only recognized the event that triggered it but was unsure what exactly happened. My family consulted multiple different doctors until they landed on the diagnoses that I had acquired speech apraxia. I won the antilottery as speech apraxia has about a 1-in-1,000 chance of occurring according to The National Institutes of Health.

Apraxia of speech is a speech disorder where those with it cannot verbalize and correctly organize what to say. For me, I had also developed a form of dysarthria, where mouth muscles became weak and would not work. I would often become frustrated because I could not be understood by my parents out of the blue.

Doctors informed my mother that her own child would never be good at writing, reading, language, and would struggle in school. As an elementary teacher, my mom always sees the potential in children and works hard against the odds, so she found me a speech therapist and worked extra hard to reteach me everything I lost.

Apraxia was difficult in the early stages of development as it caused me immense social anxiety out of fear of being judged or stereotyped. I felt isolated as I had to leave my friends and a “normal” childhood experience to go to speech therapy. Once I reached second grade, I graduated from the speech program and spoke without any signs of speech difficulties.

As I grew up, I had an immense passion for education and to prove others wrong, just as my mom had. Ironically, I favorited reading, writing, and language in and out of school as they were my best subjects.

Never would my younger self recognize the woman I have grown into today as I continue to prove people wrong. The mold doctors have made continues to be disproved by, ironically, being a communication major in the HTC Honors College, as well as through my involvement with The Chanticleer newspaper, WCCU Radio and HerCampus Magazine. Even in my spare time driving, I’ll always find myself putting in extra effort to learn and rap songs, spitting out words.

I still have mental room for growth, as it can be easy to feel redefined when I do make any speech errors, stuttering or find my thoughts feeling stuck in my head. Luckily, it is easy to laugh it off, especially in front of others and have a way to use writing to try to better verbalize my thoughts. I have learned that my past struggles do not define me but rather have shaped my growth as who I am today.

Although there are no scientifically solidified causes for acquired speech apraxia, I hope my life story inspires those who suffer with speech and to let others know the power of applying yourself even when all the odds are against you.