Interview with Mikey. The wish that turned into a passion.
I am so excited to have probably my favorite person I know on social media I know with us today. His name is Mikey and he is admin to the page Mikey’s Wish – Verbal Dyspraxia Awareness. Mikey’s famous tagline is that himself and others with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia are “too cool to follow the neurotypical rule.”
Mikey thank you so much for being here! For my readers who don’t know, can you start by telling us about yourself?
My name is Mikey and I am 16 years old. I was diagnosed with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia when I was 2 and ½ years old. I live in a village just outside Birmingham in the UK. I finished school last year and I am now doing a level 3 photography course in college. I live with my mum, dad, older sister Becki and younger brother Ben. My family have been a huge support throughout my journey with verbal dyspraxia.
- What made you decide to start your facebook page of now 6000 worldwide followers and how have you seen it grow and evolve?
I started my facebook page 3 years ago after writing a poem called ‘I am the Boy’ about living with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia and wanting more awareness. This prompted a conversation with my mum where she said that the loneliness and not knowing anyone else who shared my diagnosis was the hardest thing to live with. This made me think that if my mum felt this way there must be others feeling the same. I had seen many facebook pages about verbal dyspraxia but they were more about parents asking questions and looking for answers. I hadn’t actually seen one from the point of view of the person living with it. That is when, with support from my mum, I set up my Mikey’s Wish Facebook page. It started off with the aim to raise awareness but the more I shared my story of growing up and living with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia the more I realised that it was actually helping others who shared my diagnosis and their families. I began receiving messages from people thanking me for helping them to understand what their child might be going through and also helping their child realise that they were not the only ones living with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia. I was actually giving them hope for the future. Supporting others, knowing that I am helping others understand their child’s diagnosis and helping them realise that there are others sharing their diagnosis is the most rewarding part about sharing my story on my Facebook page.
- How has verbal dyspraxia/apraxia affected or changed you in more ways than just speech?
When I was younger living with verbal dyspraxia was difficult. Struggling to talk in a world where so much importance is put on speech, watching all those around you find speech so easy wondering what is wrong with you is soul destroying. Then going to school, already feeling different, to then find out that you also struggle with reading and writing even at a young age knocks your confidence. My family and school had to fight to get a Statement of Educational Needs so that the school received the funding needed to give me the 1:1 support and speech therapy that I needed to have any chance of achieving. Even with all this support in place I still started senior school 4 years behind my peers, still feeling different and not good enough. My self esteem and confidence were really low. I was determined to improve. My speech was becoming intelligible and I had great support in school. I had access to 1:1 support in most lessons. Dyslexia was also mentioned throughout my schooling but because I already had great support in place it was decided that we didn’t need to push for a diagnosis. After 4 years in senior school I managed to all but catch up with my peers and I managed to gain 3B’s and 3 C’s in my GCSE’s and managed to secure a place at college doing a level 3 photography course. Even now, at 16 years old, having had amazing support from everyone around me I have huge anxiety surrounding my speech. I can’t bring myself to talk in front of people I don’t know and social situations can be difficult. Having said that I am surrounding by a large group of amazing friends. Verbal dyspraxia/apraxia, I believe, has moulded me into the person I am today. It has made me compassionate, quietly confident and determined.
- What would you want people to know about you and others living with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia?
I would like people to know that those of us that happen to live with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia are just ‘normal’ people. We can understand everything that is said to us. We know in our heads exactly what we want to say but the messages from our brain to our mouth get mixed up causing our speech to become unintelligible. Once our speech becomes intelligible we can then also be left with word finding issues. If you are lucky enough to come across someone with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia just give us time to process what is said and find the words we need to answer you. Take the time to understand us. Not being able to talk does not mean that we are unintelligent. We are intelligent, amazing, hardworking and determined. Just take the time to get to know us and we could end up being the coolest person you know.
- What advice do you have for those growing up with and/or living with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia?
The advice I would give to others growing up with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia is to work hard on their speech but don’t let it get them down. It will be a long, slow road but it will be so worth it. I know that it is hard growing up feeling different but as you get older you will realise that it is the difference that makes you, you. Fighting for a voice, facing adversity and overcoming everything that verbal dyspraxia/apraxia throws at you is what will mould you into the person that you will become. I would not be me or had all the amazing opportunities that I have had if I didn’t have verbal dyspraxia/apraxia and I am proud of who I have become and what I have achieved so far. You are amazing and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Embrace your uniqueness.
- What advice do you have for parents of kids with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia?
The advice I would give to parents is be supportive but not too pushy. Fight to get your child the support they need but don’t make them feel any different from their siblings. My family have always been really supportive but they have never treated me any differently from my siblings. I have been given the same opportunities as them and never been stopped from doing or trying anything. Don’t push too hard with speech therapy. Obviously it needs to be done but try and do it in a way that the child doesn’t know they are doing it. Play family games and make it fun. It’s hard for a child spending all day in school and then come home and be sat down to do even more work, especially when it is so difficult and frustrating for them. Finally, it’s a long, hard road with no quick fixes so celebrate every tiny milestone.
- Why is awareness so important to you? What is your ultimate goal?
Awareness is so important to me because it is the lack of awareness and understanding that is so difficult to live with. Having to explain to everyone you meet why you struggle to communicate or why your speech sounds ‘funny’. Everyone deserves understanding. Young children being called lazy because their speech is delayed when they live with a neurological speech condition is wrong! Parents being told that it is their fault because they didn’t talk or read to their child enough is wrong! Professionals having never heard of verbal dyspraxia/apraxia is wrong! Schools not having any strategies or understanding of how to teach those with verbal dyspraxia/apraxia is wrong! Discrimination in the work place because of some ones speech is wrong! Awareness and understanding of verbal dyspraxia/apraxia is the only thing that will help change all those wrongs. My ultimate goal would be for verbal dyspraxia to be known and understood in every school, college and work place so that those who share my diagnosis will get the understanding and inclusion that they deserve.
Mikey I can’t thank you enough for this interview but also just for ALL that you are doing to for verbal dyspraxia/apraxia worldwide! You are an amazing young man who gives me so much hope for Ashlynn and also comfort in knowing she has a worldwide community who has her back. Thank you for encouraging her and all others! You have already accomplished so much at 16 and I have confidence that in the future you will see all that you wish to see come true. Maybe me and my daughter Ashlynn with apraxia will meet you one day!
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