My name is Ellie Hull, and I was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia when I was 22 months old, not able to say more than 10 words. I made all kinds of noises, and got very frustrated at not being able to express myself. Upon my diagnosis and their research, my parents were devastated, and extremely worried about my future. They wondered whether I would always need help in my classes, if I would need an aid or if I would have to be in speech therapy throughout high school. From the time I was diagnosed until I finished kindergarten, I attended speech therapy at Columbus Speech and Hearing twice a week, and went to a toddler language class for two and a half hours three days a week for two years. Talking became my life, despite the fact that I could barely make words out.
Kindergarten, while a challenge, was not as difficult for me as my parents had anticipated, and I immediately fell in love with reading. When I was younger and completely unable to form words, I would “read” all types of books, flipping through the pages, looking through the pictures, and making little grunting noises along the way, pretending I was reading. By the time I finished first grade, I was reading a grade level ahead, and my other subjects were coming easily to me as well. My parents were not only shocked, but incredibly grateful for the treatment I received and proud of me for the long and hard hours of work I put in.
When I finished third grade, I had come to adore math in addition to reading, and at the beginning of fourth grade, I advanced an entire year in math and entered into an advanced placement program at my elementary school, called LEAP. To me, school was fun and simple and I took for granted that my classes came easily to me. My parents could hardly believe that their once struggling little girl was suddenly thriving in what they had once thought was going to be impossible.
I am now 17 years old and a junior in high school, starting to look at colleges and taking my standardized tests. The rest of elementary school, all of middle school, and my first two years of high school have flown by, and I can hardly believe I am graduating next year. I am in the IB Diploma program at my school, am two years ahead in math for my grade, and am a mentor for freshman at my high school. I have a nannying job in the summers, and in the school year, I babysit and help out kids in my neighborhood with their schoolwork. Just as learning to talk took up all of my time when I little, talking about math, politics, books, and chemistry makes up my days now. I’m even in my fourth year of advanced level Spanish at my high school.
My mother and my grandparents attended the first ever Apraxia conference in Pittsburgh when I was a toddler. I had only completed my first year of therapy, and what they learned at the conference was both incredibly scary, but also uplifting. The first thing they learned was the importance of not just speech therapy, but the right kind of speech therapy from a properly trained speech therapist. Towards the end of the conference, they attended a seminar where a teenager spoke about her struggle with Apraxia when she was younger, and during part of her presentation, she showed video clips of her when she was in preschool. According to my mom and grandfather, it was very similar to what they observed with me, and for the first time, they had hope that I could be successful someday despite my diagnosis.
When they returned from the conference, they gave a copy of all of their materials to my speech therapist, Pam France, who then took it upon herself to learn even more about Childhood Apraxia of Speech, and has become one of the most sought after speech therapists in Columbus. I am forever grateful to Pam, because as my mom says, she helped me to find my voice.
When I first started going to the Walk for Apraxia with my parents about five years ago, I could not understand why parents would stare at me, and bring their children to me with excitement in their eyes and hope in their voices. After watching home videos this past Christmas with my family, I finally understand. I had no idea the severity of what I had faced, and how far I have come. If there is a way I can offer hope to parents and kids who are currently struggling with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, I would like to do so.
Thank you so much for all of your help in getting my voice out there!