All it takes is a spark, to light a match, to ignite a fire.

By Laura Smith|November 28, 2016|Apraxia, apraxia blog, ASHA convention, Childhood Apraxia of Speech|

Once upon a time, there was an 18 year old girl who received a full ride scholarship to her local metro university.  She took public transportation to get there since she couldn’t afford parking, and simultaneously worked 30 hours while going to school full time.  Each day she walked onto the train, she wasn’t sure she would actually receive her bachelor’s degree, but she decided she would take it day by day, one step at a time, and see where life led.

One day, 4 1/2 years later, she boarded the same train with a cap and gown in hand riding to the downtown convention center.  This center, the location of her graduation from Metro State University for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communications.

She could hardly believe it.  Walking across the stage, surreal. She had accomplished something she was never sure she would achieve, and it felt awesome.  This was the end of her academic career to be sure.  Though her emphasis was in disorders and she had taken the coursework to be certified as a Speech/Language Pathology Assistant, she would use her umbrella “Speech Communications” degree to now move up in the car dealership in which she was working to become the customer relations manager.

Insert recession.  The car dealership was turned upside down.  Future plan….shattered.

Cue phone call from local school district inquiring about an interview as she was one of the few to complete the SLPA certification and they would like to interview her for a new position.

Complete interview and accept new position.

Introduce Deborah Comfort and Roberta Fehling.  Two seasoned SLP’s.  Pioneers.  Feminists.  Glass ceiling breakers.  I was to work under them.  They both would laugh at this description, but I can tell you I was in awe of them.  I didn’t even think I would complete my bachelor degree and I’m a millennial.  These were two baby boomers who had not only completed their Bachelor Degrees but had Masters Degrees.

The Spark

I was inspired by them.  Their accomplishments ignited a spark in ME.  A spark, I wasn’t yet willing or ready to realize.  I tried to push it down and blow it out.  Graduate school wasn’t meant for people like me.  I grew up in a humble and modest home, with a common phrase of my dad’s being “poor people have poor ways” and I can tell you, graduate school is NOT one of them.

Long story short, they both believed in me.  They both urged me to continue my education, but there was no money for grad school and women like them wouldn’t understand that “poor people have poor ways.”

Deborah decided to push harder.  I arrived to work one day with her personal recommendation letter along with applications and GRE dates to get into graduate school.  I remember scanning the paperwork and then scanning her face.  She really believed in me that much, and just to be clear, Deborah was TOUGH.  I knew she didn’t do this to just anyone.  Why did she believe in me, I wondered.  Could I really be like her and have a professional degree and job?

The flame.

I applied to one distant learning school so I would still be able to work and earn an income.  It’s hard to get into graduate school for speech, and most applicants apply to many schools.  Oh well,  if I didn’t make it, it wasn’t meant to be, I reasoned.

Well, here I am, so I guess you know by now I made it.  I completed it. However, I never attended the graduation ceremony……. and I regret that.

This past year, the American Speech/Language Hearing Association (ASHA) which is the governing body that certifies SLP’s, gave me an award for media outreach champion for my encounter and subsequent press coverage of Ronda Rousey and Childhood Apraxia of Speech.  I was to be recognized at the annual ASHA conference in November.  I wanted to go sooooo bad, but finances aren’t great.  Therapy, and doctor copays for a child with global apraxia are pretty crippling.  There were other personal circumstances as well that made it seem out of reach.

I kept thinking about how I regretted missing my Master’s degree graduation. It felt silly, but I didn’t want to regret another thing.  Have you ever heard of this by Paul Coelho?

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I believe it.  Oh my goodness do I believe it.  Problem is, I have to be willing to listen to the Universe.

Case in point?  My husband’s incredibly giving extended family from out of state offered to pool their money and pay for it knowing we were kinda strapped for cash in this particular time of our lives.  I rejected it.  I felt it was charity and if I really wanted to go I could charge the entire thing on a credit card.  They offered one last offer, and I STILL declined it.

I was talking to someone about it, and she challenged me on this.   She urged me to accept the offer with grace, knowing I would make the same offer to someone else if I were in the position to do so.

Yes, of course I would, but I don’t know.  It still felt silly.  Accept money from people so I could go receive an award?  It seemed self-serving and somewhat selfish.  I can’t say it didn’t poke at me though.

A good friend and fellow apraxia mom Linda Power, offered to go and pay for the hotel.  She had lived in Philly for a time, knew her way around, and was excited to go back.  In this way, I would have a companion, and would only have to pay for the price of my plane ticket and ASHA registration.

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Hmm….that offer was tempting.  Plus, I don’t believe in coincidences.  What a coincidence Linda lived in Philly for four years and she’s a close friend of mine and would like a quick girl getaway.  Hmmm…November happens to be my birthday month.  I could ask everyone to just give me money instead of presents to pay for my plane ticket.

I asked my mom if that was rude.  She didn’t think so, so there we were!  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

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SUCH an amazing time!

The fire

I attended the ASHA convention last year, and I never thought to attend the award ceremony, which is ironic, because it’s the ONLY reason I went this year and that’s only because I was part of it.

I left soooooo inspired.  I heard story after story of SLP’s in the field and their lifetime accomplishments.  The stories were personalized and part of a video montage.  Each story was unique and touching.  I had tears and Linda had tears.  I couldn’t believe this girl from Colorado who never truly believed she would finish college was sitting in a room with these esteemed people.  If you ever attend ASHA, I highly recommend going to the award ceremony.  It will make you proud to be in this field.

Also, it made me want to do even better.  It made me want to aim even higher.  More importantly, seeing the stories of these ordinary people who did extraordinary things, made we want to be more like them.

I don’t know what the future holds.  I guess I’ll just do what I have always done, starting from that highschool graduate who stepped foot on public transportation to go to college.  I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, because if I do that, I don’t know where it will take me but it takes me further than I am now.  It take me further AND my sweet girl Ashlynn.  Kids learn through example, or I learn from her.  It seems like a mutual enterprise in this house.

That’s what she does though.  She wakes up every day putting one foot in front of the other, and for her, even THAT simple act isn’t easy….yet she does it.  So again, I have to ask myself,

What’s my excuse?

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