6 Things Speech Therapists May Not Tell You About Apraxia

I have apraxia. Here are six things my speech therapists never told me, and yours may never tell you.

1. There will likely be social and emotional struggles. Growing up with apraxia, I certainly had my fair share of friends, but this does not mean I was not affected. I was asked on the playground to say hard words the kids know I couldn’t say over and over. I was asked why I was pulled out of class. The kids would groan when it was my turn to read out loud. Parents would say, “you need to articulate” and repeat every sentence. Grown-ups would smile and nod, pretending they knew what I said but ignoring me with a lack of response. Your therapist may say it will affect relationships, but they probably won’t tell you about the little things that happen every day.

2. It is more than a childhood disorder. You may always stumble over words, and have a hard time talking, especially when tired. Your friends may laugh when you fumble, thinking you just need sleep when really there are residual effects. You may never master sounds – especially vowels, and get asked over and over where your accent is from. You may be forced to take foreign languages, and get marked down for pronunciation when you cannot even form the correct sounds for your native language. Life does not suddenly get better when you can produce your /r/ sound; you may always be battling to talk.

3. You will probably be discriminated against. At some point or another, it will happen. You will be told you cannot be a public speaker, you cannot be an English teacher, or you cannot master another language. I was told I can never be a speech therapist – yet here I am in graduate school fighting the stigma. You are a minority, and the world is not yet set up to accommodate people who are different. You can become stronger because of this, and be a natural-born fighter.

4. You may constantly have to fight for your accommodations. If you have multiple diagnoses, schools often overlook apraxia, either not caring or not knowing what it means. If you are one of the few like me, apraxia has affected your reading and segmenting – with standardized tests results that appear similar to those diagnosed with dyslexia. But schools may not focus on reading and you’ll have to fight to get the appropriate accommodations. Teachers may see accommodations in college and laugh or groan because it means more work for them. But I believe you will find your voice, and this will make you a stronger individual.

5. If you choose to be a speech therapist, professors and professionals may knock you down. They may make you take the standardized tests with classmates and humiliate you when you fail the test. Articulation teachers may question if you can do it, especially if you still have troubles with pronunciation and sounds discrimination. They may tell you that you can’t engage with children, because you may still struggle with prosody from time to time. They may tell you that you should pick a different career, maybe be a teacher.

I believe you can be whatever you want to be – you will work harder and cry more, but you are a fighter and will make it. You know how hard therapy is, and how many struggles come with not being able to communicate. You can be a better speech therapist because of this. Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something.

6. You may always have struggles, but you can be successful. You’ve overcome so many challenges that others do not have to think about. You can develop a natural empathy for others in pain, as you have been there. This will make you a better person, one who can change the world. Maybe you are still scared to talk to people you want to impress, maybe you are scared to talk on the phone, and maybe you will always be angry with the person who said you couldn’t do something. That is OK. You will flourish in passion, in empathy, in strength, in thinking on your feet, in finding alternative ways to communicate. You will always be part of the apraxia family.

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