What is it like to grow up with speech, language and communication needs?

We spoke with Mikey from the Mikey’s Wish Verbal Dyspraxia Awareness Facebook Page where Mikey talks about what has helped him along the way and were inspired by his journey.

Mikey, how would you describe yourself and your  journey?

I would describe myself as a normal 18 year old who just happens to live with a diagnosis of verbal dyspraxia. 

The journey to find my voice was very hard and extremely long. I spent 13 years in speech therapy, only being discharged at 15 years old when my speech was “as good as it’s going to get.” 

Growing up with verbal dyspraxia was hard, living with a diagnosis that very few people had heard of or understood was lonely but I wouldn’t change any of it. 

I honestly believe that it has taught me lessons that most people haven’t been lucky enough to learn and it has moulded me into the person I am today.

We are very inspired by your social media pages. What prompted you to get started?

There were three things that prompted me to start my social media pages. 

One was that every time I told someone that I lived with a diagnosis of verbal dyspraxia I would be met with looks of confusion and “what’s that?” No one seemed to know what it was unless someone in their family was also diagnosed. Something that I was determined to try to change by raising some much needed awareness.   

Another reason was the loneliness! Although I was surrounded by supportive family and friends, at times I felt so lost and alone. If I felt like this then others must too. I didn’t want anyone else to feel the loneliness my family and I felt, so I thought if I could share my story and help just one other person realise that there were others living with the diagnosis then it was something that I had to try.   

Then there was hope. Discussions with my mum made me realise that parents were desperate to find out what the prognosis of the diagnosis was but there was very little information around. This inspired me to share my achievements on my page so parents would be able to see that although we struggle in some areas it doesn’t affect all areas of our life and there is still so much that we can do.

What has helped you the most on your journey?

My family! My whole family have been so supportive. My mum ensured that I received the much needed speech therapy, fought to get me a Statement of Educational Needs (now EHC plan), to ensure that I received the support I needed throughout my schooling.   

She has been with me for every step of this journey and knowing that I can go to her whenever I need help gives me the confidence that I need to go out there and try things.

Being treated exactly the same as my brother and sister, never being told that I can’t do something, being given exactly the same opportunities as them throughout my childhood has given me a quiet confidence. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my whole family supporting me.

What has been the hardest for you?

When I was younger I would say that feeling ‘different’ at such a young age was hard. Being the only one on the playground, amongst my peers not being able to speak was soul destroying.  

Now I am older the hardest thing is the anxiety that I have surrounding my speech. Although I know that I now have a voice that others can understand, I still have word finding difficulties and process what people say to me slower than most people.  

This can cause my speech to be disjointed and slightly slower than most people’s. It’s frustrating because if it doesn’t include speaking I am very confident but the minute I am expected to speak I just clam up.

You are one of the people who has inspired us the most. Who or what has inspired you?

I am inspired by all the children, teens and adults who fight daily to overcome a disability. Those who never give up, no matter what life throws at them.

What would you say to children and young people experiencing difficulties with speech, language and communication?

Struggling to speak or communicate has absolutely no impact on your intelligence.  

Never think that just because you speak differently, or communicate in a different way to most people that you can’t achieve anything that you put your mind to.   

Also, your voice matters, what you have to say matters, never let anyone tell you any differently.

What can parents and families best do to be supportive?

Just be there for us, ensure that we get the support we need with speech and in school. 

Research our diagnosis and show that you understand our difficulties.  

Give us the time that we need to talk and really listen to us. 

What are your plans for the future?

I am at college doing Level 3 Childcare and Education course because I would like to work as a 1:1 LSA to support children with additional needs with their learning.   

Wow, thank you Mikey for your wise words. Keep going and doing what you are doing. Thank you for everything you are doing to speak up for young people and children that are still finding their own voices. Reprinted from the original article at http://www.acorntooakeducation.org