The fact that I can make clear and coherent sentences is nothing short of a miracle. You only need to talk to me for five minutes to see that I am a passionate communicator. In school, I was moved around the classroom by my teachers because I was a “chatter-box.” But it didn’t matter which seat I was assigned to, because I was friends with everyone in the class.
For those who know me, it’s hard to believe that was a time when I was mute. Imagine having all these thoughts, ideas and quips that you desperately want to share with the world, yet having all those ideas muzzled in a box. My own mouth was failing me. The words I uttered were incomprehensible and incoherent to others. This was my reality. As a young child, this was extremely frustrating.
How a Fighting Spirit Helped Me Overcome Severe Speech Problems
Until I was five years old, I had debilitating speech problems. I believe this is because I grew up in a turbulent household.
My mom was battling with chronic schizophrenia, in addition to suffering physical abuse from my dad. She was in and out of women shelters and psychiatric hospitals. My dad was a hostile, violent man, who would use his fists. This was extremely sad because my dad was a highly intelligent and well-travelled man. But his intelligence was marred by his vices. My brother would often suffer from the hands of my father as well. I myself was a burgeoning thief, who would steal miscellaneous items such as chocolate from the grocery store. I sucked my two fingers constantly for comfort.
Imagine having all these ideas, but falling short time and time again. Every time you try to speak, incoherent babble comes out.
Imagine having all these ideas, but falling short time and time again. Every time you try to speak, incoherent babble comes out. I recently watched an interview with Oprah for Bloomberg’s The David Rubinstein Show. Oprah said that the most frequent question interviewees asked at the end of interviews is, “Was that okay?”. Oprah interpreted this question as interviewees indirectly asking her, “Did you hear me?” and, “Did what I say mean anything to you?”
People want to be heard and understood. This is especially true for a 5 year-old who is going through hell, and wants to be able to vocalize her frustrations in some way. Who wants to be validated and affirmed. The puzzled looks and dismissals from people I spoke to were frustrating at the time. Even when I was assessed by professionals, they stated that I had potential, but my speech abilities at the time did not accurately reflect that.
Then, in 1998, I went through a life-changing experience. I was living in foster care at the time. Under the recommendation of a doctor, I started attending speech development classes every afternoon. It was a three-month period from February to June of that year.
Assessments covering that time period stated that my language and speech ‘exploded,’ and that I was suddenly able to formulate clear and full sentences.
Assessments covering that time period stated that my language and speech “exploded,” and that I was suddenly able to formulate clear and full sentences. There were times when I couldn’t vocalize my opinion, but I would keep persisting until I was able to express what I wanted to say.
Now, I do presentations. Most recently, I did a resume seminar for the Ontario Association for Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists (OACETT). I graduated from university debt-free, with a surplus from all the bursaries and scholarships that I’ve received. I have been on panel discussions. I have interviewed acclaimed artists, designers, writers and photographers.
But what if I had given up when I was 5? What if I had not been faithful to attending my speech therapy classes? What if I had accepted the reports that said I was incoherent, or listened to the people who said I should have taken medication?
I am forever grateful to God for giving me a fighting spirit. I want to encourage whomever is reading this article and is going through a difficult season in their life. Keep trying. Keep vocalizing. Keep trying to articulate.
One day you will explode too, and you will be grateful that you did.