Her fight, our fight: The day we met Ronda Rousey

By Laura Smith|June 1, 2015|#knockoutapraxia, Apraxia, apraxia blog, Childhood Apraxia of Speech|44 comments

It started with an intriguing title: Ronda Rousey: The World’s Most Dangerous Woman, and then a picture of a James Bond beauty type.

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Now, I normally wouldn’t click on stuff like this, but today I had a day off, the kids weren’t fighting, and I thought, okay…sure.  Let’s see.  A beautiful James Bond girl is the most dangerous woman in the world?  Sure.  Let’s read about this.

And then I read this

“In her first six years, nobody knew whether she’d ever speak an intelligent sentence, such were the after effects of being born with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. It could be that her gibberish and mumblings were signs of brain damage. No one knew, and her parents — Ron, an aerospace-industry executive, and De Mars, an educational psychologist and statistician — moved when she was three from Riverside, California, to Jamestown, North Dakota, in part to be near the Minot State University speech therapists, who set about bringing her vocal cords to their senses. It wasn’t easy, and it took time. And it was especially frustrating for Ronda given how advanced her sisters were. “I’m dumb, Mom,” she once said. “Maria and Jennifer have the words. I don’t have the words.” “No, you’re not, you’re very smart,” her mother told her. ”

And then I was hooked.  I started googling her name.  I read every interview.  In almost every interview she made mention of her “speech impediment.”  Each time she talked about it, the more my mind thought, “this is apraxia.”

I threw up the question to the apraxia kids facebook group.  Yes, people had heard of her, but no, they never heard she had a speech impediment and they sure didn’t think she had apraxia.  Hmm.

Did I mention I had the day off and my kids were being good?

So, I started to research some more.  In one interview she said her dad called her “sleeper.”  She was just waiting to bloom.  He told her things like she was going to be an Olympic gold champion, or the president of the United States. He died tragically when she was young and he never lived to see her accomplishments.  My heart ached for them.

In another interview they said one time she said a word that was unintelligible, but it was what she wanted for her birthday.  Her dad took her to the toy store and made the store clerk take them to every item until they discovered her jumbled words were trying to say Incredible Hulk.  Man, how many of us have been there?  Damn birthdays.  When your kid can finally tell you what they want, you would sell your house to get it and you say a prayer of thanks they could at least try and say something and tell us what they want.  She HAS to have apraxia.  I have to at least ask.

One problem.  Ronda Rousey is incredibly famous.  What could I even write that her PR people would read and then pass on to her?  Could I try her fb page?  Twitter?  I settled on the “contact me” form on her website.  I started writing to her PR people, but it emphatically turned into me writing to her.  I didn’t hold out much hope, but hey, might as well put it out there.  Apraxia needs a face….and what better face then this badass female!  She’s smart, talented, driven, resilient…man.  Doesn’t she sound like our kids with APRAXIA?

Before I closed my computer one last thing on her website caught my eye.  She wrote a book.  Hmm.  Maybe she writes more about her speech impediment in her book?

I saw that she was going to have a Colorado book signing.

Interesting.  I clicked on it.

May 29th 2015

Wait….that’s…..today!?  Oh my gosh.  She is in Colorado!!  She is in Denver tonight!

Insert internal struggle.

I have to go!  This is amazing.  I have to ask her.  I can ask her in person!  Laura, are you crazy?  A has speech therapy and swimming tonight.  You can’t go down there.  Plus, are there even any tickets left?  It’s the day of.  Well, I could check.  I could check….and then if there aren’t any tickets left I can wipe my hands of it and know it wasn’t meant to be.

So I called Tattered Cover.  There are tickets left, but they are almost gone.  I have to buy the book to get a ticket.  Do I have to come in and buy the book?  Oh, I can order it over the phone and pick it up at the book signing with my ticket?  Do I want one?  Um…um….this is crazy right?  I’m crazy.  Oh what the hell.  Yes.  I’ll buy one.  Yes thank you. I’m number 422 out of an allotted 500.

What did I just do?  I don’t watch MMA.  Just this morning I didn’t even know who Ronda Rousey was and now I have bought her book and a ticket to go to her book signing on a night we are slammed with appointments.  My husband is going to think I lost my mind.

Okay, I won’t tell anyone.  It’s only crazy if she doesn’t have apraxia right?

I feed my kids lunch.

Who am I kidding?  I can’t keep a secret.  I text two of my apraxia mommy friends.

“Do you believe that coincidences are not really coincidences?” and I tell them the story.  The consensus?

“Go”

I tell my daughter’s SLP…her response?

“You have to go!” and “You should bring your walk flyer!”

Yep.  Definitely going.  I packed a CASANA apraxia brochure and inserted my walk poster and off we went.

A was STOKED.  She LOVES books.  She could not believe this big book was for her.  She held it like a prize and she would NOT let me hold it.

We stood in line and people thought she was adorable.  Ronda’s youngest fan.  Well…maybe….if Ronda has apraxia this moment is epic.  I started to get nervous.  What am I doing here?  I dragged my 5 year old baby to a book signing on a mother’s intuition.  Oh well.  If nothing else, this woman is pretty kick ass.  She’s not famous for her good looks (even though she’s beautiful), she’s not famous for being a reality star, she’s famous for being freaking talented and smart.  I started liking her in spite of anything.

Finally it was our turn.  As we got closer, her bodyguards were crabby and everyone on her team seemed tired.  They were literally pushing people after their book was signed so they wouldn’t take up more time for selfies or whatever. She wasn’t personalizing books.  In fact, you couldn’t even hand her your book.  They handed it to her for you.  Sigh.  I took out my hidden apraxia brochure.

Damn.

Oh well, maybe we’ll still be able to talk.  Those body guards though.  Gulp

“Okay sweetie, your turn.”

I sent A up to the counter by herself because I read in one interview that Ronda has a soft spot for kids who seem to have the same speech disorder she did, so she really tries to take time for them.  This was no exception.

A walks shyly up to the counter.

“What’s your name?” Ronda asked.

A answered but she couldn’t understand so she leaned over and asked again.  I only got this one picture 11393018_10205134887824400_1278270075692218729_n

 

before I went over to clarify.

Ronda started signing her book.  I said quickly, “A has a neurological speech disorder like you did and we are inspired by you because you overcame that and so much more.”

Almost on auto-pilot Ronda responded, “Yep, I had to overcome a lot to get here.”

I’m crazy nervous now.  I have to ask her like ASAP.  Luckily she’s taking a long time to sign the book.  Laura say it!!

“Did you have apraxia?”

Ronda stops signing dead in her tracks and looks me in the eye and says, “What did you just say?”

“uh uh apraxia?  dyspraxia?  Was that your speech impediment?”

She looks incredulous and repeats “apraxia, yes, this is what they think I had.”

I smiled.  I knew it.  Un-freaking believable.  I look over at the body guards.  What the heck.  I throw the CASANA brochure on the counter.  They move in, but she motions them to stop.  I say,

“This is information on apraxia.  If you really did have it, will you say that in your interviews instead of speech impediment.  It would mean so much to our kids who are struggling with it.”

She again looked at the brochure before looking back up at me and said, “I will.  I really will.”

She seemed sincere.  I instantly believed she would.  I have A give her a hug and try to push her along (bodyguards are watching) and she says,

“You know, my mom is a PhD psychologist, and SHE had never heard of it.  She took me to the Universities and many of them had never heard of it.”

“Yes!” I replied.  “Yes!  It’s still not well known or understood.”

She starts to get really worked up now.  Emotions start spilling out of her.  I read in an interview people think she’s so tough, but really she wears her heart on her sleeve and she was, right then, in that moment.

“They wanted to put me in a special classroom away from my friends.  They thought I was stupid!!  But by 4th grade I was top of my class in algebra, and by highschool I tested gifted.”

“Yes!” I again replied.  “Yes, these are our kids.”

She looked back down at the brochure before looking up again and said, “I will.  I really will.”

A and I ran out of there.  Before we left I pointed at Ronda and said “Look!!  She has apraxia,” and then I pointed to a line of almost 100 people who were still waiting and said, “and all these people want her autograph!!”

My daughter smiled.  We ran out into the rain laughing.

“You’re going to be famous!” I said, and we laughed.

It was very late by this point and we still had a 30 minute drive home.  I stopped by my parents house to tell them the story.  They couldn’t believe it!

I finally got home and ate dinner while my husband put A to bed.  I fired up my computer to start writing this blog post, but checked fb.  Just for the heck of it I went to Ronda’s fb page to like it, and that’s when I saw this:

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She reposted the brochure I gave her!!  She must have done that first thing upon completing the book signing!!  She IS one of our kids!  So freaking awesome!!

Even if she doesn’t do anything else, even if she doesn’t say she has apraxia (but I think she will), A and I will always have that moment…..that moment when we met a true fighter who beat apraxia and so much more, just like A will.

We will always have that book confirming what I have hoped all along:

“I never would have been able to do any of those things without hope.  The kind of hope I’m talking about is the belief that something good will come.  That everything you’re going through and everything you’ve gone through will be worth the struggles and frustrations.  The kind of hope I’m talking about is a deep belief that the world can be changed, that the impossible is possible.” – Ronda Rousey

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44 Comments

  1. What an awesome story! So glad fate allowed you to meet Rousey! And I’m so proud that you spoke up and asked her if her speech impediment was apraxia, and that she shared on fb, and that you lived in the moment. Love, love, love.

  2. Amazing story! My son has Apraxia. Our kids need all the role models and assurance they can get. They need to know that through hard work and dedication, anything in the world can be achieved.

  3. Okay and now if only she could state publicly that 1) she suffered from apraxia, and 2) some children are being helped by supplements such as methyl b-12, pharmaceutical grade fish oil, more people would go to their doctors and start asking for actual treatment instead of just a referral to a speech pathologist.

  4. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. I truly believe that some things are too coincidental to merely be coincidence. Fate took over that day, and I am sure glad it did.

  5. Absolutely Matt! Me too!!

  6. Yes Marcena exactly! She seemed very sincere that she will refer to it as apraxia from now on as opposed to just saying speech impediment. I hope so!!

  7. Thanks Tori! It was exhilerating!!

  8. Absolutely love this! Gave me a big smile & a few tears for the day. Intuition can be a wonderful thing! All kids need a champion and from what I’ve read I would be happy to have Rhonda as my son’s-great story!

  9. Absolutely Megan! Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  10. Your story made me tear up!! I’ve always been a fan of her, making her own way through a totally male dominated sport, and she’s bad a$$ too. I’m so touched that she opened up and responded to you and your daughter! I know how important role models are, I always have my stuttering clients find someone to look up to and hopefully Ronda will become one for CAS!!

  11. Oh Christiana I am sooo hoping so! She hasn’t done a real in depth interview since I met her, so I’m hoping the next one she does she will say apraxia!

  12. My son has Apraxia & I just learned that during a commercial before Ronda’s fight that she has apraxia… I googled with tears in my eyes & found your story!!! We are blessed that this happened!!! We are thankful for Ronda’s bravery that goes beyond her fighting ! Prayers for our kiddos! Hearing this gives us hope that our children will be heard & understood! Thank you & good luck RR!!

  13. I’d never heard of Ronda Rousey until earlier today, when a former speech student’s mom posted a video of her. This student’s speech was probably MUCH like Ronda’s , so I’m thinking that may be behind my former student’s love for this sport. Thank you so much for sharing this. I now, suddenly, consider myself a fan of Ronda’s. Now to dry up these eyes….

  14. That is a great story and so inspirational for your daughter! I love when the universe comes together like this. =)

  15. Love your story and appreciate you sharing this with us all! I definitely shed a few tears while reading it. My 4 year old son has Apraxia. Just think, your intuition, courage and words could be exactly what Rhonda needed to hear at just the right moment. Would love for Rhonda to be a voice for spreading the word about Apraxia and a role model for our kiddos!

  16. My son has Apraxia as well and like you with your daughter, I can not help but look at my son and see the huge potential that is there. I encourage him everyday and my heart is always blown away by how much he goes through on a day to day basis. He is my Hero. My hope and love for him are to immense for words. It is people like Ronda that can help further the knowledge of other non-apraxia parents. Three cheers for Ronda and three cheers for our children.

  17. I have custody of my granddaughter. Her speech is mostly another language. I understand it. Not many others do. There are times when what she’s saying needs to be deciphered. She is smart and funny just has trouble with words. Thank you for your story.

  18. Hi Bridget, Thanks for commenting. I hope she is in speech therapy. You sound like an awesome grandma to step up and take care of her. Good luck.

  19. Absolutely! Cheers to you and your son as well!

  20. Thank you for commenting. Best wishes to you and your son 🙂

  21. Thanks for your comment Michelle. It was an incredible day!

  22. Thank you for commenting Jenny. I agree Ronda’s is amazing. Best wishes to and your son too 🙂

  23. Remarkable story thank you for sharing that. So many gifted kids out there and many are quick to label them when they even get the time to get to know them. Rousey is tough but does not have ‘Tin man Syndrome” no heart. Just the opposite .
    Have a great week everybody. http://www.zazzle.com/holidays4you*

  24. Hi,
    I’m Ronda’s mom. I don’t remember the exact diagnosis they gave for Ronda – it was a long time ago. She was deprived of oxygen at birth and had a constellation of symptoms, the main one being that she had difficulty producing speech. I remember crystal clearly, though, how heartbreaking it was to see her struggling to say words that just would not come out. She could understand everyone but the words just made no sense half the time. The only ones who could understand what she was saying were her two sisters. I have often wondered where she would be now if we had not been able to get her speech therapy that was excellent, early and often. We sometimes think that the reason she excelled so much physically so early is that she had such difficulty expressing herself verbally.

    AnnMaria

  25. I know exactly what you mean! I became a Ronda super fan overnight

  26. I loved reading your post and so thankful that you followed your heart! Amazing things happen when we do this. What a wonderful story to share. I am a speech pathologist and love hearing stories like this!!

  27. It’s so true. Thanks for commenting.

  28. AnnMaria! You have no idea how much I have been wanting to talk to you! Ronda is inspirational, but you are too! I devoured her book, and have read your blog. You are a true mama bear fighting for your cubs, sacrificing your time, moving from Cali to North Dakota so she could have a team of SLP’s is selfless and incredible. I can tell you as an SLP who specializes in the disorder, her case history and presentation of symptoms are very indicative of apraxia. Especially since it’s obvious she has no other co-morbidities. Hypoxia can cause apraxia if it occurs in the area for speech. Is there any way you could find out the diagnosis? At the time she would have been going through speech therapy, there was a ton of controversy around apraxia. It was called a variety of things including developmental dyspraxia, verbal apraxia, verbal dyspraxia, until finally in 2007 when Childhood Apraxia of Speech was acknowledged by the American Speech Language Hearing Association. The apraxia community doesn’t have a face of someone who beat it, and Ronda is so willing to discuss it. I can’t even begin to adequately describe or express how much it would mean to this community. Even if she said that she probably had apraxia, it would make sense given the time she was receiving therapy. I hope this isn’t too candid, but I would love to speak with you. I would love to interview you. Apraxia is the only disorder I have treated where it is described as a fight to get your words out. No other speech sound disorder is like that. Apraxia has to be treated with frequent and intense sessions, which you did for Ronda. You said you wonder where she would be, I can tell you the heartbreaking truth about apraxia, is that if it is not treated aggessively and correctly, many children do NOT go on to develop intelligible speech. That is why awareness is so important to me. That’s why you are such an inspiration. You epitomize exactly the sacrifices parents need to make and what they need to do if they want their child to speak intelligibly. I cannot thank you enough for commenting. Sincerely, thank you!! My email address is lauraslpmommy@gmail.com if you are willing to speak further, but thank you so so much for commenting, and please thank Ronda for sharing that brochure. She made instant overnight fans out of this entire speech community, not that she needed anymore fans. She’s amazing.

  29. Maybe she will be the first “WOMAN” PRESIDENT……..She’d get things done in congresss or whip their butts all at once reps and senators.

  30. Laura, thanks so much for this story and being an advocate for our kiddos! It’s suspected my son has apraxia and he’s only two and a half. I still have a lot to learn about it and wonder if you’d be willing to talk with me off-line about your experience? I live in CO too 🙂 Please email me at mommy2eono@comcast.net if you’d be willing to talk. Thank you!

  31. GLOBAL AWARENESS! You certainly accomplished what you set out to do Laura! Funny thing.. WORDS can’t describe what your beautifully written and emotionally charged blog did for all children struggling with Apraxia. It has truly gone viral. Which is EPIC for our community. For me personally you sparked an energy in me that I had lost. I was feeling overwhelmed with hopelessness. Mark has Global Apraxia and at 11 years old he his still fighting the APRAXIA BEAST! Thank you for reminding me that with the right perseverance and therapy our children with Apraxia can resolve the struggles they face daily. You stepped into a ring in a sense….daring to do something truly amazing for the entire Apraxia community. Looks to me as if you are a CHAMPION at bringing GLOBAL AWARENESS to the struggles our kiddos endure everyday. Thank you isn’t enough.

  32. Hi Laura,
    Loved your article!!! I am profoundly deaf since birth. My mom had rubella (German measles) when she was pregnant with me. Fortunately, my parents pushed me to go through speech therapy since I was able to walk as a baby until well into high school. I learned how to speak well but not as well as anyone who speaks well (hearing). I went to normal hearing schools (no deaf schools or sign language) throughout my life. As I got older, and into the working world, I learned sign language from various deaf employees and married my wife who happens to be the sign language interpreter at where we work. My point of this conversation is, I understand the language barriers better with the help of sign language so as a suggestion for those children who have apraxia can benefit from learning sign language as an added incentive to learn the English language to better yourself with speaking. Also helps reduce the frustrations of said child with apraxia trying to say something as well as those who are trying to understand what that person is saying. (Ronda was trying to pronounce a word (A toy) to her father, so he brings her to the store to determine what she was trying to say), sign language would help in this situation. Just a thought. And again, great article.

  33. Hi Laura,

    Loved your article! I don’t know if you ever browse imgur.com (probably not) but I made a post there about your visit to Ronda, with some info about apraxia, and it went viral. Here’s a link. http://imgur.com/gallery/SSEBf

    As a future OT, I can’t wait to help kids like your daughter. Ronda is a great role model for kids with apraxia, and it’s so cool that you were able to meet her and get the word out about this disorder. Thank you!

  34. My husband just asked me if I knew that Ronda had Apraxia… I said yep! I know this, of course, because of your blog post! She mentioned it in a reddit AMA post (http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/3gixri/rowdy_ronda_rousey_here_ama/) and gave a serious shoutout to us SLPs out there!! You rock girl!!

  35. Wow, very cool! Thanks for sharing!!

  36. Thanks Gino and excellent point. Sign language is absolutely helpful in facilitating speech in those with apraxia, along with just providing an alternate communication system while learning speech.

  37. Oh Jenny. You are sweet. I know how you feel, and it makes my heart smile to know that you have come back swinging. We’re going to do everything we can for Mark…and there is so much hope and potential. We just have to “Fight Like Ronda.”

  38. We need to see speech paths put Ronda posters up in the their classrooms and offices!

  39. Wow….what a beautiful story of mothers intuition and hope
    for this crazy apraxia!!!!
    Thank you for sharing and Blessings…

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  41. Well thank you mate! Judging from your word usage I’m going to assume you are down under! I love connecting with people literally around the world. We all are sharing this space, and the world is much smaller than we think it to be.

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