When We Asked Ronda Rousey If She Had Apraxia of Speech

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It started with an intriguing title — “Ronda Rousey: The World’s Most Dangerous Woman” — and then a picture of a “James Bond”-type beauty.

Now, I normally wouldn’t click on stuff like this, but today I had a day off, the kids weren’t fighting and I thought, OK, sure. Let’s see. A beautiful “James Bond” girl is the most dangerous woman in the world? Sure. Let’s read about this.

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And then I read this:

“In her first six years, nobody knew whether she’d ever speak an intelligent sentence, such were the after effects of being born with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. It could be that her gibberish and mumblings were signs of brain damage. No one knew, and her parents — Ron, an aerospace-industry executive, and De Mars, an educational psychologist and statistician — moved when she was three from Riverside, California, to Jamestown, North Dakota, in part to be near the Minot State University speech therapists, who set about bringing her vocal cords to their senses. It wasn’t easy, and it took time. And it was especially frustrating for Ronda given how advanced her sisters were. ‘I’m dumb, Mom,’ she once said. ‘Maria and Jennifer have the words. I don’t have the words.’ ‘No, you’re not, you’re very smart,’ her mother told her.”

And then I was hooked. I started googling her name. I read every interview. In almost every interview she made mention of her “speech impediment.” Each time she talked about it, the more my mind thought, This is apraxia.

I threw up the question to the apraxia kids Facebook group. Yes, people had heard of her, but no, they never heard she had a speech impediment and they sure didn’t think she had apraxia.  Hmm.

Did I mention I had the day off and my kids were being good?

So I started to research some more. In one interview she said her dad called her “sleeper.” She was just waiting to bloom. In another interview she talked about wanting a Hulk Hogan Wrestling Buddy when she was 3, but she couldn’t pronounce his name. She remembers going to toy store after toy store and not being able to communicate what she wanted, until a salesman figured it out. Man, how many of us have been there? When your kid can finally tell you what they want, you would sell your house to get it. She has to have apraxia. I have to at least ask.

One problem: Ronda Rousey is incredibly famous. What could I even write that her PR people would read and then pass on to her? Could I try her FB page? Twitter? I settled on the “contact me” form on her website. I started writing to her PR people, but it emphatically turned into me writing to her. I didn’t hold out much hope, but hey, might as well put it out there. Apraxia needs a face, and what better face then this badass female! She’s smart, talented, driven, resilient… Doesn’t she sound like our kids with apraxia?

Before I closed my computer, one last thing on her website caught my eye. She wrote a book. Hmm. Maybe she writes more about her speech impediment in her book?

I saw that she was going to have a Colorado book signing on May 29, 2015.

Wait, that’s… today?! Oh my gosh. She is in Colorado! She is in Denver tonight!

Insert internal struggle.

I have to go! This is amazing. I have to ask her. I can ask her in person! Laura, are you crazy? Ashlynn (my daughter) has speech therapy and swimming tonight. You can’t go down there. Plus, are there even any tickets left?

I called the bookstore and there were tickets left, but they were almost gone. I had to buy the book to get a ticket. I was number 422 out of an allotted 500.

What did I just do? I don’t watch MMA. Just this morning I didn’t even know who Ronda Rousey was and now I have bought her book and a ticket to go to her book signing on a night we are slammed with appointments.

Yep, I was definitely going. I packed a CASANA apraxia brochure, inserted my walk poster and off we went.

Ashlynn was stoked. She loves books. She could not believe this big book was for her. She held it like a prize and she wouldn’t let me hold it.

We stood in line and people thought she was adorable. Ronda’s youngest fan. I started to get nervous. What am I doing here? I dragged my 5-year-old baby to a book signing on a mother’s intuition. Oh well. If nothing else, this woman is pretty kick-ass. She’s not famous for her good looks (even though she’s beautiful), she’s not famous for being a reality star, she’s famous for being talented and smart.

 

Finally it was our turn. As we got closer, her bodyguards were crabby and everyone on her team seemed tired. They were literally pushing people after their book was signed so they wouldn’t take up more time for selfies. She wasn’t personalizing books. In fact, you couldn’t even hand her your book. They handed it to her for you. Sigh. I took out my hidden apraxia brochure.

Oh well, maybe we’ll still be able to talk. Those bodyguards though. Gulp.

“Okay sweetie, your turn.”

I sent Ashlynn up to the counter by herself because I read in one interview that Ronda has a soft spot for kids who seem to have the same speech disorder she did, so she really tries to take time for them. This was no exception.

Ashlynn walked shyly up to the counter.

“What’s your name?” Ronda asked.

Ashlynn answered but she couldn’t understand so she leaned over and asked again. I only got one picture before I went over to clarify “Ashlynn.”

Ronda started signing her book. I said quickly, “Ashlynn has a neurological speech disorder like you did and we are inspired by you because you overcame that and so much more.”

Almost on auto-pilot Ronda responded, “Yep, I had to overcome a lot to get here.”

I was so nervous. I had to ask her ASAP. Luckily she took a long time to sign the book. Laura, say it!

“Did you have apraxia?”

Ronda stopped signing, looked me in the eye and said, “What did you just say?”

“Uh, uh, apraxia? Dyspraxia? Was that your speech impediment?”

She looked incredulous and repeated, “Apraxia, yes, this is what they think I had.”

I smiled. I knew it. Un-freaking believable. I looked over at the bodyguards. What the heck. I threw the CASANA brochure on the counter. They moved in, but she motioned them to stop.

I said, “This is information on apraxia. If you really did have it, will you say that in your interviews instead of speech impediment? It would mean so much to our kids who are struggling with it.”

She again looked at the brochure before looking back up at me and said, “I will. I really will.”

She seemed sincere. I instantly believed she would. I had Ashlynn give her a hug and tried to push her along (bodyguards were watching), and she said, “You know, my mom is a PhD psychologist, and she had never heard of it. She took me to the universities and many of them had never heard of it.”

“Yes!” I replied. “Yes! It’s still not well known or understood.”

She started to get really worked up now. Emotions spilled out of her. I read in an interview people think she’s so tough, but really she wears her heart on her sleeve and she was, right then, in that moment.

“They wanted to put me in a special classroom away from my friends. They thought I was stupid! But by fourth grade I was top of my class in algebra, and by high school I tested gifted.”

“Yes!” I again replied. “Yes, these are our kids.”

She looked back down at the brochure before looking up again and said, “I will. I really will.”

Ashlynn and I ran out of there. Before we left I pointed at Ronda and said, “Look, Ashlynn! She has apraxia,” and then I pointed to a line of almost 100 people who were still waiting and said, “and all these people want her autograph!”

Ashlynn smiled. We ran out into the rain laughing.

“You’re going to be famous, Ashlynn,” I said, and we laughed.

It was late by this point and we still had a 30-minute drive home. I stopped by my parents’ house to tell them the story. They couldn’t believe it!

I finally got home and ate dinner while my husband put Ashlynn to bed. I fired up my computer and just for the heck of it, I went to Ronda’s Facebook page to like it. That’s when I saw this:

She reposted the brochure I gave her! She must have done that first thing upon completing the book signing. She is one of our kids. So freaking awesome!

Even if she doesn’t do anything else, even if she doesn’t say she has apraxia, Ashlynn and I will always have that moment  that moment when we met a true fighter who overcame apraxia and so much more, just like I believe Ashlynn will.

We will always have that book confirming what I have hoped all along:

“I never would have been able to do any of those things without hope. The kind of hope I’m talking about is the belief that something good will come. That everything you’re going through and everything you’ve gone through will be worth the struggles and frustrations. The kind of hope I’m talking about is a deep belief that the world can be changed, that the impossible is possible.” – Ronda Rousey

Follow this journey on SLP Mommy of Apraxia.

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Why 300 People Had a Water Balloon Fight With This Boy With Apraxia

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Camden Eubank was excited to celebrate his 10th birthday on July 6, but his mom, Traci Eubank, was worried about throwing a party and having only a few people show up, according to her Facebook post.

Camden has childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), a motor speech disorder, and it’s difficult for him to make friends, his dad, Wayne Eubank told WDBJ.

But when his parents made a Facebook page announcing Camden’s water-balloon-fight party, just a week before his birthday, more than 5000 quickly liked it.

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Even more buzz came from Reddit.com, a the site nicknamed the “front page of the Internet.” The Eubanks don’t know who initially posted the party announcement to Reddit, but they were excited to see it get more than 4,000 upvotes. Reddit users from as near as Camden’s hometown in Roanoke, Virginia to as far as Singapore and Canada commented, hoping to make Camden’s birthday extra special. Cards and packages started arriving at the Eubank’s home soon after the post went up.

And somehow, the story got even better.

 

Two people sent Camden Blake Shelton concert tickets and included some money for Camden to buy a Blake Shelton T-Shirt. Camden dreams of becoming a country music singer, his mom wrote on her Facebook post.

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The water balloon fight party attracted 300 guests, from family and friends to complete strangers who’d heard Camden’s story. The 10-year-old even got a special birthday wish from Senator Mark Warner:

Hi Camden, wanted to wish you a happy 10th birthday! I wish I could be there for the “ultimate water balloon fight” – sounds like a blast!

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“With all the stuff that goes on in the world … you just can’t believe when something this good comes along,” Wayne Eubank told The Roanoke Times. “We just asked for a simple water battle and for some people to come to it. We got more than that.”

See more photos from Camden’s birthday festivities below:

A Special thank you to Aarika @ https://www.facebook.com/technicolorcakes?fref=nf&pnref=story

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How My Son's Speech Therapy Ended Up Helping Me

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It was an agonizing, gnawing fear.

What if my son didn’t get the help he needed? 

For months my husband and I had been concerned about our toddler’s lack of speech. People kept telling us to give him time and he would magically start speaking one day. Everyone had a story to this effect about someone they knew who was once speech delayed, but suddenly, abruptly caught up. Other people told us we simply needed to read him more books or talk to him more often. This advice was a painful insult to our parenting. Of course we spoke to our son and read him books! More than that, it simply wasn’t true. We could tell our son needed intervention that we weren’t trained to give.

I was desperate. I was afraid my son would continue to fall behind unless we started speech therapy soon. My fear was that he would struggle for years if I didn’t put up a proper fight for him now. 

I cried the day we found out our insurance had approved him for speech therapy. Finally he would get the help he needed. The pit growing in my stomach was beginning to recede.

Still, I was a bit nervous. Having no experience with speech therapy, I pictured my spirited, enthusiastic toddler sitting in a sterile doctor’s office and being drilled on rote speech patterns. Yikes.  

Six months later, I now realize I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My son literally cheers every time we pull into the parking lot. He races inside, eager to meet up with his therapist and then prances across the gym to the toy closet.  I sit on the floor and watch, amazed as his therapists turn every learning activity into a game. Or perhaps they’re turning every game into a learning activity. Either way he adores it.

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During these sessions I’ve learned too. I’ve caught onto the hand signals used to cue certain sounds. I’ve studied the basic signs he’s been taught so I can use them at home.  

But I’ve learned deeper things as well. I now know my son is an enthusiastic and tenacious student. He works diligently at every session.        

I’ve learned I’m not in this alone. When my husband deployed a few months ago, it meant I (temporarily) lost my partner in parenting. While friends and family are supportive, they don’t feel the struggle to hear our son speak as keenly as we do. They can’t appreciate how hard he works or how much time we spend practicing at home. With my husband gone, I thought I would be shouldering this responsibility alone.

But I’ve learned I’m not the only one fighting for my son. Our amazing, patient, encouraging speech therapists have joined our team. They’ve been there when I needed advice. They’ve celebrated his accomplishments with me. I know they want my son to succeed just as much as I do.

As I put my son to bed last night, I gave him a rundown on the next day’s events. “And then we’ll go to speech and see Ms. Britt!”

“Woo-hoo!”

Woo-hoo, indeed, I thought. Speech therapy might be for my son. But it’s been helping me too.  

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment someone changed the way you think about disability and/or disease. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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10 Things Parents of Kids With Apraxia of Speech Wish You Wouldn't Say to Us

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My son has childhood apraxia of speech (CAS).  These are the top 10 things, from my experience, I wish others wouldn’t say upon meeting children like mine.

1. He will grow out of it. 

Really? Are you sure? Google “CAS,” and get back to me on that.

2. Oh, you know Einstein didn’t talk until age 3! He’ll talk when he’s ready…

Refer to answer #1.

3. He’s shy and/or rude.

No, actually, he can’t talk.

4. He just needs a little spank. [During a major meltdown]

No, you need a little spank! He needs some words and a hug — and someone who read #1 again!

5. He’s a what? Apraxic? Don’t you mean autistic?

No, I don’t.

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6. Yeah, I’ve heard of it… my brother’s aunt’s cousin’s uncle had it. He’s fine now though…

Great, that’s a relief…

7. But I heard him say, “Mom.”

Yes, he’s capable of saying a lot of things and sounds. He simply can’t talk.

8. I heard *insert odd idea* works.

Thanks for the thought, but I’ll stick with the countless doctors and professionals currently treating my child.

9. When will he be able to talk?

My Magic 8 Ball isn’t working today, so let me get back to you on this.

10. He’s still not talking?! 

Trust me, we’ve got this under control. Just read #1, please. Thanks!

If you would like to learn more about CAS, here are two great resources:

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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40 Boys Put on Suits to Stand Up for Their Friend. It Worked.

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Jennifer Keefe’s 10-year-old son, Timothy, came home from school last November and asked his mom to take him out to buy a suit.

Keefe was taken aback. She was used to her 6-year-old son, Danny, wearing suits — he’d been attached to them since the Christmas before, when his mom bought him a red shirt and black jacket. But Timothy never showed any interest in dressing up.

“Ten-year-old boys like to wear Under Armor and sweatshirts,” Keefe recalls. “I asked him why he needed a suit.”

“We’re all wearing them,” he said, “to show Danny we support him.”

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Kids at school often bullied Danny — they didn’t understand why he wore a dress shirt or fedora each day, and they didn’t understand why he couldn’t talk. Danny has apraxia of speech, a motor disorder that makes it difficult for him to communicate. Kids would go up to him and ask, “Why can’t you talk? Just talk.” He’d come home from school distraught.

But a group of the boys on the Bridgewater Badgers’ football team, where Danny is the official water manager, wouldn’t stand for this. Their solution? A “Danny Appreciation Day,” where they would all imitate Danny’s suave style and proudly go to school. In the Life Is Good video below, you can watch scenes from that day — more than 40 boys wore suits. Danny led the march.

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“It could have turned ugly. The boys could have gone to the playground and said, ‘Who’s doing this to you? Where are they?'” Keefe told The Mighty. “But instead they responded in this very adult-like, peaceful way. It was all about love and support.”

Nearly six months later, Danny confidently walks around the school hallways. No one picks on him anymore, his mom says.

“It’s kind of the opposite now,” Keefe told The Mighty. “Kids go up to him and say, ‘Hey, you’re the kid from TV!'”

Family friends have also started a fundraiser to help the Keefes afford Danny’s expensive speech therapies. Out of the 100 sessions he needs this year, insurance will only cover about 15, Keefe says. It’s a battle she downplays, though — her son’s happiness is a priority.

“Danny started crying when he saw everyone in suits that day,” Keefe recalls. “He was only 6 but it was like he understood the magnitude of what happened. I’m just so thankful the parents in my community raised such kind young men.”

Watch Danny’s story in this Life Is Good video, directed by Tim O’Donnell:


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An Open Letter to a Child With Autism, From a Teacher

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Dear ________,

You may not know it, but you are on my mind more than you may think.  I think about you all the time. I see you. I want to help. I try to honor your inner landscape and intervene, not overpower. I try to talk with you, not at you. That’s why I do what I do; for you, with you, and with the others who care so much about you. Just like I do.

What do I do with you? I work to create a breadcrumb trail for you to follow, each and every day. Even if it seems unnecessary or confusing. Even if the intervention is “repetitive” or “not working”. I eagerly count each success and fiercely guard each disappointment I feel, so that you don’t get discouraged when things are hard. I’m aware of your attempts to reach out, to learn, to understand, and to make sense of the world around you. I’m aware that it can be a fun yet scary place, and that it’s hard sometimes to “fit in”. I try to watch out for you and cater to your strengths and preferences, while being mindful of your challenges and dislikes. I cherish our time together and each triumph, each smile, laugh, and word. I relish the unique mindset and skill set you demonstrate, and each opportunity to help you expand your horizons.

That’s why I use a combination of toys and technology, of free play and structured activities, and spontaneous conversation and elicited question and answer sessions, at different times, to help you learn to:

  • Better orient to person/place/time so you can stay “grounded” longer and more frequently and learn to sequence events and anticipate outcomes
  • Develop a sense of humor so that you can take constructive criticism and transition better, and “bounce back” more easily when things don’t go as planned
  • Categorize and group like/unalike objects and pictures and explain why? so that you get “organized in your head” and understand what “a place for everything and everything in its place” really means
  • Manage your stress levels and sensitivity to things like texture, sound, light, changes in routine etc. so that you can communicate your wants/needs and displeasure in a way we can understand and accept, and you can better problem solve how to “talk yourself away from the ledge” and let others know how you feel.

So I make seemingly random comments and suggestions to you and your family. I suggest that you do things you may want or not want to,  like (under supervision!)

  • Spending time playing with other children outside in a playground
  • Spending time reading books/stories about others and their feelings
  • Spending time learning to use specific iPad Apps
  • Spending time completing chores at home
  • Spending time with animals and/or caring for a pet
  • Spending time taking mini-road trips and outings around the neighborhood

I know, I know, you may think I’m pushy. I admit that I’m trying to teach you lots and lots. But I have a secret to share…..you have already taught me so much more than I could ever teach you! Each and every encounter I have with you enriches my life, and makes me realize things about myself, about the world, that I never knew! I also never knew how much patience and love my heart could hold, or how creative I can get with my lesson and daily planner!

Thank you for being you, and for giving me the opportunity to see who you really are. Thank you for trying so hard and for not giving up on me. I won’t give up on you. We’re in this together, and I can’t wait to see what you do next!

Love,
_________

This post originally appeared on Friendship Circle.

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