I sit in the refectory at college in late 2011. A young lady about my age comes over to speak to me. Her voice broken, not fluent, and every word is difficult to get out. With all the effort she can muster for that one sentence, she tries again, but yet again, it does not come out. Why is this? Come on, seriously! What is taking you so long! I thought, getting slightly inpatient now. I have things to do, lectures to attend, and people to speak with, and at least, I think to myself, I’d get an actual conversation out of them.
Fast-forward a few weeks, and I see this person again in a singing lesson, her voice fluent, free, legato and smooth. Notes coming out with ease. No effort that she had previously, it all seems to have dissipated in those few minutes of freedom and joy for her. That song she was singing with such ease, was Summer Time from Porgy and Bess. I left the room a short time later, thinking nothing of it, and was still slightly annoyed as even after she had finished singing, the stammer as I discovered it was, had returned once more. Was this person doing it for attention? I questioned? Perhaps. I had yet to realise, there was more to a stammer than I knew, and yet to realise, that all you need is time. Time is valuable, and will get you out of a frustrating situation.
All that other person needs to do, is wait for you patiently, and respond accordingly, without patronising, without condescending.
Fast-forward a few years later, and I am listening to a film, the King’s speech, that was all about how king George the 6th, suffered from a stammer. I became interested, but did not know that eventually, when I will be pursuing my degree in psychology, would be the time I would become interested in perhaps branching out into a career in speech and language, helping those with aphasia, after suffering traumatic brain injuries or stroke.
A few years later, and I am doing my Open University degree. I also found on Netflix, a documentary, My beautiful Broken Brain, detailing a lady’s life with aphasia after an intra-cerebral brain haemorrhage (a severe stroke) that affected her brocca’s and Wernicke’s area. I became interested and listened, growing ever more interested. I felt for her, as her frustration grew ever more noticeable as she tried to form the words, and burst into tears. I wished someone could be there for her, to support her, to tell her that she will get there in end, to not give up, that it’s the start of a long road and if needs be, that she would have someone to accompany her on this journey. Be it rough, and frustrating, even when there are moments of joy mixed in. I would love to be that person, the one who would be there for them, to (metaphorically) lay that supportive hand on their shoulder, and tell them: you can do this, I do not believe in quitting, and neither will you I hope. Barriers are sent to try us, to block us, to stop us pursuing our goals, to cause problems for us, rob some of us of skills that we previously had and do not have anymore. Guess what though? All we need, all you need, is time. Time to tollerate each other, as I should have done with the lady at college with the stammer. Time to support each other, time to help each other, by giving each other the tools to overcome those barriers, and prevent those who are sceptical from laughing at our attempts to succeed should they fail. If I succeed at going into neuroscience first, then speech and language, as my way of getting into neurorehabilitation, then that shall be the way. If I can do my BSC(Hons) and get a high degree, then do an MSC in speech therapy, to get into neurorehabilitation, then I shall do so. Speech and language may have been visual for one lady without sight, but technology has moved on since her attempt. Why not let another try. She may be able to preceed further. We can all do what we we wish too, but just in slightly different ways. We do not have to all end up in stereotypical boxes, IE, boxes where you think we will fit best because of our disabilities. Give us a chance. You never know what you may have stumbled across in your endeavours to find the right candidate.