Ronda Rousey changes public perspective about disability

By Laura Smith|October 25, 2016|#knockoutapraxia, Apraxia, apraxia blog, Uncategorized|

In the facebook group, Ronda Rousey: #knockoutapraxia, I love hearing from people who were inspired by Ronda, and recently, a member named Shawna posted that she wrote a school paper on the very subject.

When I met Ronda and wrote my article, it was never about making her a spokesperson for CASANA (even though Ronda that would still be awesome if you are reading this).  It is the fact that parents, who experience many dark, lonely, and worrisome hours when their child is dx with a rare disability people don’t know much about, can see someone who made it out on the other side, and did so successfully.  That was my goal along with raising awareness.  The goal was HOPE and INSPIRATION.  Love this story.  Thanks Shawna for sharing!

For this journal I chose an article about Ronda Rousey because she has apraxia of speech.

Ronda is an example of changing public perspective about disability because she became famous before anyone ever learned of her condition.  My youngest son has apraxia of speech.  When he was younger I was obsessed with understanding his potential outcome.  He began intense speech therapy shortly before his second birthday.  By this, I mean I took him to three different therapists, four days a week for intense one-on-one sessions.  I wanted to know how it might help him because having your two year old committed to such a schedule can make you feel awful about forced learning.

Ronda’s story is an example of how a person can overcome a tremendous amount of social anxiety and change how the public views disability.

Within this article we learn how Ronda experienced anxiety related to public speaking and had her sister help her at speaking engagements early in her career.  To know that she was possibly affected, at birth, by deprivation of oxygen which led her to have this condition is paramount.  The general public tends to assume if someone sounds differently-abled then they must have a mental deficit.  To see Ronda achieving great things in life while dealing with a communication issue helps people understand disability has many different meanings.  Tragically, many people will excuse a disabilities importance if they can find a way to blame it on a factor such as environment or self infliction.  I do not agree with this perception, but having Ronda talk about how she was given this disorder by no other contributing factor than deprivation of oxygen, forces people to accept it.  The public views her as competent in all areas of life including her ability to speak. Therefore, she is educating the general public in a way they do not realize.

She’s obviously beautiful and a lot of men would like to date her.  Some might shy away from her if they heard her struggling to speak.  They would be uneducated enough to assume she has mental disabilities.  She has presented herself as a strong, successful fighter and now we learn of her struggles to speak. 

Before anyone knew her disability they knew only of her abilities. 

I think this personal story of Ronda might encourage people to be more compassionate.  If you watch her interviews there are moments where you see her still struggling to find words.  I would never have the deep understanding of facing a communication disability if I did not witness it firsthand from someone I love with my whole heart.  In the article she talks about how her sister remains someone who speaks for her when she has moments where the words will not come out of her mouth.  In general, everyone has some minor symptoms of apraxia. Have you ever struggled to remember the name of an actor in your favorite movie?  You can see their face but you cannot recall their name?  Does it ever frustrate you so much you have to grab your phone to Google their name?  That is what it is like for someone with apraxia to even make sounds for speech.  For the public to realize someone as big and strong as Ronda faces adversity with something we all tend to take for granted, undoubtedly leads to understanding.

The correlation between Ronda being an MMA fighter and the struggles of all children with apraxia of speech does NOT go unnoticed within the apraxia community I am deeply involved with. 

For us, being able to show our children someone they can relate to, and show their success in every aspect of life, is difficult to express in words.  Apraxia is also something diagnosed in adult stroke victims-people who once had an ability to speak but now struggle with words to define things they know full well the meaning of.  These are people who fight to develop or regain skills we are normally given with ease.

The analogy of her fighting and the fight of all people struggling to communicate does not go unnoticed.

In closing, this is an issue I have a difficult time speaking about. Ironic, given the struggles of a population trying to learn how to communicate basic wants and needs.  When I first learned of Ronda’s diagnosis of apraxia I immediately looked for videos of her speaking.  I thought, “This is someone who is already a success in the eye of the public. To hear her speech and to know her struggle will encourage compassion because people will see she has all her other abilities.”  This is a big deal for the apraxia community.  Families of those struggling with apraxia feel like info-mercials. 

|Some of us have been known to hand out pamphlets about our child’s condition just so that people will quit staring in public. 

I have been known to give out little business cards with a brief description of my son’s condition.  Not only to get people to quit making him feel anxious, but to make people see that you never know the struggles of the person next you in line at the store.  Ronda is helping people to have empathy because she expresses her social anxiety.  She is a person who could knock someone out for making fun of her, yet she talks about shutting down and becoming overwhelmed with emotion when faced with communication struggles.  That is profound when thinking of others and their struggles.

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