It feels like home this year: Apraxia Conference 2017

By Laura Smith|July 9, 2017|Apraxia, apraxia blog, CASANA, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Uncategorized|

Wow!  This conference in San Diego has been a WHIRLWIND.

I was greeted with palm trees upon arrival, and being a Colorado native, anytime I see palm trees my mind thinks “hello vacation.”  I had some time to kill before my room was ready, so I was able to walk over to the beach.  My “beaches” in Colorado are sandy, but are man-made; so I’m always in awe of a beach literally littered with sea shells.  I was in heaven.  I took off my shoes and ventured out into the water.  Unlike the initial crisp temps in Colorado, the water was warm and inviting.

Perhaps though, even more inviting than the warmth of the ocean or the sway of the palm trees, was when I arrived at this location miles from my home in Colorado, I started seeing familiar faces.  Sooo many familiar faces, and I still felt like I was home.  A different kind of home of course, but a home all the same.  These are my people.  This is my tribe.  More importantly, these are Ashlynn’s people and these are her tribe.

SLP Moms of Apraxia

co-presenter apraxia momma bear!

I hugged numerous faces.  As an SLP AND a parent of a kid with apraxia, each of these people I could look at and say “me too.”  We all share similar experiences.  We all share this bond.  It sounds funny, but I got to “meet” in person people I feel like I already know via facebook.  Isn’t facebook an interesting phenomenon?  The pictures below are a just a sampling of a few people I talk to frequently but had actually never “met” in person.

I was speaking the next day, but that night was what I was most nervous about.  The founder of CASANA, Sharon Gretz, had FINALLY agreed to come to the conference if only for one night; and this meant we could all honor her and give her the recognition she deserved.  The wheels had been in motion for a month or so with numerous people who love her throughout the country mobilizing via social media to give her a gift and a night she would remember and that she in fact so duly deserved.  Since many of these people couldn’t be in San Diego, it was up to me and a few others to make sure it went as planned.

Initially we were told Sharon wasn’t going to go.  The founder, the previous executive director, but more importantly the woman who had become the face of CASANA and made it her personal mission to reach out to all of us in a personal way and who had helped 100’s if not 1000’s of our kids, wasn’t going to be there.  It was devastating, until an email was sent out about a month and a half before the conference that said she would be there for one night, and one night only.

That set the wheels in motion.  Through the apraxia facebook network, a video was made with numerous apraxia parents and children spread out through North America who she had personally touched and helped.  In addition, a water color painting was brainstormed, ordered, made, and framed to be her surprise gift at the conference.  The picture is of her young son Luke, her reason CASANA even exists in the first place.

The ceremony was emotional and absolutely perfect.  It was the proper way to honor someone who has changed the lives of thousands of kids with apraxia and their families for the better.  It felt incredibly rewarding to make her feel as special as she is.

Have you ever stopped to think, and then believe, that one person, ONE, could change the life of hundreds; if not thousands, if not millions of others?  I had not honestly until recently.  Sharon changed my life, and because of her kindness to me, I want to pay it forward as much as I can.  During this tribute to her though, I started to realize Sharon touched and inspired hundreds of others like me.  How incredible is that?  What is the ripple effect of one person?  I can’t answer that, but I can tell you this picture on the left represents two women who were helped by Sharon and now blog and have vowed to make it better for those coming after us.

My take home message from Sharon’s life frankly is this: If you can’t change the world, that’s okay.  Change the life of ONE.  It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you add up each day, and then each year, and then each year in your life; if you have vowed to help make even just ONE person’s life better each day, you will have touched hundreds, if not thousands, like Sharon Gretz.

The keynote of this conference described planting a “seed.”  One seed to sow a village of support.  My takeaway, is one seed alone is small and insignificant, but planted next to others in the field, it grows a thick and abundant crop.  One seed in a forest doesn’t seem important, but that’s the wrong outlook to have.  EVERY seed in the forest is important, just as every family member in a family is important.  Only when each seed is properly nourished and supported, does one forest, or one garden flourish.  It flourishes based on the strength of each individual.

One seed then my friends, is equally as important as the next.  I think true leaders see the value in each seed.  They see the value of each tree instead of looking at the entire forest.  Thank you for caring about this small seed in Denver, Colorado Sharon.

With humble admiration.

The life of just ONE.


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