Young Adults with Apraxia – Tessa McEvoy

How does apraxia still impact you today?
Despite attending speech therapy until 12th grade, I still struggle formulating words. In this highly verbal society where your intellect is based-off your ability to verbally articulate. I find making friends or getting taken seriously difficult. At school, even in college, when everyone is chatting away, I cannot simply jump into the conversation without people pausing to look at me then resume talking. I appear weird along with disconnected with the group dynamic. Nobody knows what to do with my out of sync delivery. Either I say something too quickly or too slowly. This leads to frustration when I am trying to meet new people. At college, I have very few friends that invite me places outside of class. Meanwhile, I see others chilling with each other, an experience that I do not feel part of.  I miss the “college experience.” I dreamed of hanging out with classmates, homework buddies, and getting invited places.

However, when I try to initiate a friendship, my efforts often get rejected. I struggle to build the deep personal connections needed to maintain a relationship. My questions often come-off as superficial, shallow, or clueless. I forget to talk about what’s important, ask about their lives, and build on previous conversations. Instead, I find myself asking about their day on loop. I suck at navigating the social fabric in large groups. For years, I could barely speak in sentences. I could not hold an in-depth conversation. By the time I could form sentences, almost everyone around me could talk in paragraphs. By the time I could articulate in paragraphs, it was too late. People already established their tight-nit friends with no room for me. I did not realize this difference until late middle school when I began craving connection.

Fast forward to my super-junior year in college, I feel it more than ever. The pandemic did not help when everyone went remote for two years. I switched majors from three-dimensional animation to digital design right at the beginning of lockdown. Hardly anyone wanted to get to know each other outside of Zoom classes. I tried chatting to a few people with no luck. Going back to in-person-learning gave me hope. Nope. Still the same problems. I am realizing that a disability follows you into every aspect of your life. Even when you change majors, schools, or jobs thinking things could get better. The side-effects impact your relationships just about everywhere. My Apraxia contributes to my current depression and anxiety. I constantly worry about rejection. I find myself wondering if I will ever get invited back whenever I meet new people. I cannot stop thinking about my smallest mistakes. These thoughts make me wonder if I’ll ever get taken seriously. There is a notion that anyone with a high-pitched or “goofy” voice is shallow and uneducated. These stereotypes continue to harm people with speech disabilities or accents. Finally, the insecurity that comes with adolescence is hitting me in my early twenties.

However, I find that making friends online goes smoothly. I am currently interested in slot machine cabinet design and graphics. Back in 2017, I stumbled across the YouTube slot community after researching images of Japanese skill-stop machines. After scrolling for a while, I clicked on a photo that led me to The Big Jackpot’s account. I decided that I wanted to meet them since we lived in the same state. Next thing I know, I met Brian of Denver to give him fanart that I made. Long story short, I began meeting people who shared the same interest and hobby. The online format worked. I could see what people said which makes it easier to track who likes what. Texting allowed me to scroll through our conversations. And YouTube livestream chat proved lucrative for meeting new people too. I run a channel called, It’s a Slot Machine, for anyone curious about my online presence. Next thing I know, I am getting invited out to casino events (every mother’s dream for their daughter), spend time with my favorite YouTubers, and enjoy good times with friends. Heck, I ended up getting an IGT Double Diamond slot machine back in 2018 for my high school graduation present. This gift symbolizes the kindness of the community. It reminds me of my friendships even when I am struggling socially at school. There are too many people to name, but I am extremely grateful for everyone. By the time I turned 21, I began getting invited out to Las Vegas, Florida, Detroit, and Choctaw casino. I think these friendships work since everyone saw my art and we built connections online before hearing my voice. I also do not want to forget the Apraxia community. Huge kudos to Jordan from Fighting for My Voice, Lauren from SLP Mommy, and Mikey from Mikey’s Wish for motivation. Without Apraxia, I wouldn’t have started my Apraxia Story Facebook page. Without Apraxia, I wouldn’t have initiated online friendships. Without Apraxia, I wouldn’t have met the wonderful people who I know today. These are the ways that Apraxia still impacts me today.

Oh wait, I almost forgot Terry and the Boyz! Cannot thank the peeps who I work with on this cartoon enough for seeing my creative potential despite my disability. Know what, let’s end it with this:

“Come on and sit down with Terry and the Boyz, Terry and the Boyz, Terry and the Boyzzzzzz! Heeeh Heeeh Hehh!”

 

How do you advocate for yourself as a teen/young adult?
Almost every day, I find myself explaining that I have a speech disability. I get asked the question, “Where are you from? Your English is really good!” quite often. I tell them that I have Apraxia which impacts my ability to articulate words. It can be frustrating, especially when I am trying to meet people. I also share my adventures on Apraxia Story to help spread compassion, hope, and understanding. I know that I sound cliché, but the world needs more of these three things. I feel that the more people who tell their story, the more forgiving society will become towards disabilities. Right now, I am excited to share a children’s book that I illustrated for Mikey’s Wish. This book will add to the ever-growing pool of literature about Apraxia. I envision that in the next 50 years, or sooner, Apraxia will be destigmatized.

 

What would you tell your younger self about having apraxia?
“Everything will be okay. By the time that you are 22, you would have visited Las Vegas 4 times, Choctaw casino twice, Biloxi, Florida, Detroit, and Canada. You have a loyal group of friends who love you. These friends will not be able to see you in-person often, but they will invite you places. I know this is hard to see right now with the bullying you are currently experiencing. It’s rough thinking that out of a class of 37, half of your peers blocked you on Instagram. The other half make plans then cancel because something better came up. These people are NOT your friends. No matter how hard you try, their actions already show their true colors by the way they treat you and other classmates with disabilities. They are not worth your time either. Continue embracing Space Cadet Wannabe, the online comic you are currently working on. By the way, you will be a keynote speaker at the International Manufacturing Summit in 2018 for winning the 24 Under 24 Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space award. There will be a lot going for you. The people you make friends with will not judge your inabilities. They will embrace your talents, passions, and interests. Oh, got to go before my time machine breaks the space-time continuum…uhhh, I just narrated my future, but for the better.”

*A giant blackhole forms in the middle of the room. The time machine wraps around its gravitational pull propelling the machine back to the future. See you again in 2015…no…wait…2022! The blackhole spits out a self-tying show for 15-year-old Tessa to remember this moment by.

 

What is something you wish people understood about living with apraxia?
I wish that people understood that Apraxia doesn’t determine someone’s intelligence or social value. Even if someone is struggling to speak, most likely they can fully understand you, the conversation, and your non-verbal cues. It’s rough getting treated as “less-than” when trying to engage with people. Despite my disability, I can sense reject or when I am not treated as an equal. For me, the dead giveaways are people’s tones, questions, body-language, vocabulary, and willingness to hang out.

How does apraxia still impact you today?
Despite attending speech therapy until 12th grade, I still struggle formulating words. In this highly verbal society where your intellect is based-off your ability to verbally articulate. I find making friends or getting taken seriously difficult. At school, even in college, when everyone is chatting away, I cannot simply jump into the conversation without people pausing to look at me then resume talking. I appear weird along with disconnected with the group dynamic. Nobody knows what to do with my out of sync delivery. Either I say something too quickly or too slowly. This leads to frustration when I am trying to meet new people. At college, I have very few friends that invite me places outside of class. Meanwhile, I see others chilling with each other, an experience that I do not feel part of.  I miss the “college experience.” I dreamed of hanging out with classmates, homework buddies, and getting invited places.

However, when I try to initiate a friendship, my efforts often get rejected. I struggle to build the deep personal connections needed to maintain a relationship. My questions often come-off as superficial, shallow, or clueless. I forget to talk about what’s important, ask about their lives, and build on previous conversations. Instead, I find myself asking about their day on loop. I suck at navigating the social fabric in large groups. For years, I could barely speak in sentences. I could not hold an in-depth conversation. By the time I could form sentences, almost everyone around me could talk in paragraphs. By the time I could articulate in paragraphs, it was too late. People already established their tight-nit friends with no room for me. I did not realize this difference until late middle school when I began craving connection.

Fast forward to my super-junior year in college, I feel it more than ever. The pandemic did not help when everyone went remote for two years. I switched majors from three-dimensional animation to digital design right at the beginning of lockdown. Hardly anyone wanted to get to know each other outside of Zoom classes. I tried chatting to a few people with no luck. Going back to in-person-learning gave me hope. Nope. Still the same problems. I am realizing that a disability follows you into every aspect of your life. Even when you change majors, schools, or jobs thinking things could get better. The side-effects impact your relationships just about everywhere. My Apraxia contributes to my current depression and anxiety. I constantly worry about rejection. I find myself wondering if I will ever get invited back whenever I meet new people. I cannot stop thinking about my smallest mistakes. These thoughts make me wonder if I’ll ever get taken seriously. There is a notion that anyone with a high-pitched or “goofy” voice is shallow and uneducated. These stereotypes continue to harm people with speech disabilities or accents. Finally, the insecurity that comes with adolescence is hitting me in my early twenties.

However, I find that making friends online goes smoothly. I am currently interested in slot machine cabinet design and graphics. Back in 2017, I stumbled across the YouTube slot community after researching images of Japanese skill-stop machines. After scrolling for a while, I clicked on a photo that led me to The Big Jackpot’s account. I decided that I wanted to meet them since we lived in the same state. Next thing I know, I met Brian of Denver to give him fanart that I made. Long story short, I began meeting people who shared the same interest and hobby. The online format worked. I could see what people said which makes it easier to track who likes what. Texting allowed me to scroll through our conversations. And YouTube livestream chat proved lucrative for meeting new people too. I run a channel called, It’s a Slot Machine, for anyone curious about my online presence. Next thing I know, I am getting invited out to casino events (every mother’s dream for their daughter), spend time with my favorite YouTubers, and enjoy good times with friends. Heck, I ended up getting an IGT Double Diamond slot machine back in 2018 for my high school graduation present. This gift symbolizes the kindness of the community. It reminds me of my friendships even when I am struggling socially at school. There are too many people to name, but I am extremely grateful for everyone. By the time I turned 21, I began getting invited out to Las Vegas, Florida, Detroit, and Choctaw casino. I think these friendships work since everyone saw my art and we built connections online before hearing my voice. I also do not want to forget the Apraxia community. Huge kudos to Jordan from Fighting for My Voice, Lauren from SLP Mommy, and Mikey from Mikey’s Wish for motivation. Without Apraxia, I wouldn’t have started my Apraxia Story Facebook page. Without Apraxia, I wouldn’t have initiated online friendships. Without Apraxia, I wouldn’t have met the wonderful people who I know today. These are the ways that Apraxia still impacts me today.

Oh wait, I almost forgot Terry and the Boyz! Cannot thank the peeps who I work with on this cartoon enough for seeing my creative potential despite my disability. Know what, let’s end it with this:

“Come on and sit down with Terry and the Boyz, Terry and the Boyz, Terry and the Boyzzzzzz! Heeeh Heeeh Hehh!”

 

How do you advocate for yourself as a teen/young adult?
Almost every day, I find myself explaining that I have a speech disability. I get asked the question, “Where are you from? Your English is really good!” quite often. I tell them that I have Apraxia which impacts my ability to articulate words. It can be frustrating, especially when I am trying to meet people. I also share my adventures on Apraxia Story to help spread compassion, hope, and understanding. I know that I sound cliché, but the world needs more of these three things. I feel that the more people who tell their story, the more forgiving society will become towards disabilities. Right now, I am excited to share a children’s book that I illustrated for Mikey’s Wish. This book will add to the ever-growing pool of literature about Apraxia. I envision that in the next 50 years, or sooner, Apraxia will be destigmatized.

 

What would you tell your younger self about having apraxia?
“Everything will be okay. By the time that you are 22, you would have visited Las Vegas 4 times, Choctaw casino twice, Biloxi, Florida, Detroit, and Canada. You have a loyal group of friends who love you. These friends will not be able to see you in-person often, but they will invite you places. I know this is hard to see right now with the bullying you are currently experiencing. It’s rough thinking that out of a class of 37, half of your peers blocked you on Instagram. The other half make plans then cancel because something better came up. These people are NOT your friends. No matter how hard you try, their actions already show their true colors by the way they treat you and other classmates with disabilities. They are not worth your time either. Continue embracing Space Cadet Wannabe, the online comic you are currently working on. By the way, you will be a keynote speaker at the International Manufacturing Summit in 2018 for winning the 24 Under 24 Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space award. There will be a lot going for you. The people you make friends with will not judge your inabilities. They will embrace your talents, passions, and interests. Oh, got to go before my time machine breaks the space-time continuum…uhhh, I just narrated my future, but for the better.”

*A giant blackhole forms in the middle of the room. The time machine wraps around its gravitational pull propelling the machine back to the future. See you again in 2015…no…wait…2022! The blackhole spits out a self-tying show for 15-year-old Tessa to remember this moment by.

 

What is something you wish people understood about living with apraxia?
I wish that people understood that Apraxia doesn’t determine someone’s intelligence or social value. Even if someone is struggling to speak, most likely they can fully understand you, the conversation, and your non-verbal cues. It’s rough getting treated as “less-than” when trying to engage with people. Despite my disability, I can sense reject or when I am not treated as an equal. For me, the dead giveaways are people’s tones, questions, body-language, vocabulary, and willingness to hang out.



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