I have always hated speaking. It’s fine if I am amongst friends and people I trust. But put me in front of strangers then it becomes a completely different ballgame. I have to find ways to get through it. Ways to avoid tripping over words. Trying to stop the stammering returning. Public speaking becomes a mechanical task which needs a process. I significantly cut down my vocabulary range. I never use a planned written speech (I just can’t find any rhythm when I’m speaking from prepared text – I even struggle to read a book aloud). I plan and memorise the first two lines that I will say. I work out exactly how I am going to greet someone. I never make direct eye contact, rather I tend to look at eyebrows or foreheads. Even then it’s a bit of a lottery. I’ve delivered a perfect conference speech to 500 yet completely collapsed in front of just 2 people. I guess the secret is to try forget about the inevitable mistakes or just smile at them.
I remember speaking to the medic who mentioned the word Aspergers first in connection with our Son. She was an autism expert – one of only two we have ever met, which is kinda scary. Anyway I remember her saying something like
I suspected that he was on the spectrum almost immediately. It was the way he walked into the room. They way he struggled to sit and make eye contact. He confirmed my diagnosis as soon as I heard him SPEAK.
Son was very like me in that he started to talk pretty late as a toddler. As soon as he did start talking then his vocabulary rapidly expanded. At nursery he was absolutely flying with his speech. But then at about the age of 5 he started to struggle with a number of factors
- His speech suddenly become extremely monotone,
- He would either speak far too quietly or far too loudly,
- He struggled to pronounce many sounds correctly,
- He would always get the use of plurals wrong,
- He was definitely using language which was well beyond his age.
The final one was not a problem but it did lead to some amusing incidents. In his first year at school the class was about to start a series of lessons trying to teach the kids about animals eventually after a number of weeks leading to touching on evolution. Within a couple of minutes of the first lesson our boy put his hand up and then proceeded to explain evolutionary theory to the class. The lovely teacher said she had to later go and look up some of the terminology he had used.
But as the months went on his speech issues became more pronounced. Eventually his Aspergers Expert managed to arrange speech therapy for him. Slowly the therapy started to work. Certainly his pronunciation and his control of his voice levels improved. Unfortunately after 6 months the speech service was cut by the Government to save money. It’s never restarted. The therapist gave us a number of exercises to practice but did leave us with a message
Constant practice will help manage any speech issue but they won’t solve them in your son’s case. They will be underlying for the rest of his life. They may become more pronounced as he gets older. He needs to develop his own way of coping with that.
That’s where we are today. He still can’t get his head around plurals. He is still struggling to pronounce certain sounds. No help is available for him. But rather than trying to cope with the issues, it’s more about him developing his own unique communication style. One which suits his personality. That approach I’m pleased to say is working. The other key thing is to stress that we all struggle with speaking at some stage. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s who we are. It what makes us unique.
Son always likes to hear one of my most embarrassing speech incidents. I have a niece who when she was very young would not say big or large, rather she would have to say really really REALLY big. That was pronounced wheelie wheelie WHEELIE big. Anyway many years ago I was delivering the organisation’s annual report to The Council. Representative of the Government was there as was the local press. Talking about the financial position I meant to say
In terms of of our Operational Budget and our Tax Revenues we have a significant underspend.
Unfortunately that was delivered by this prize muppet as
In terms of of our Operational Budget and our Tax Revenues we have a wheelie wheelie wheelie WHEELIE big underspend.
Not sure that key message was delivered with quite the gravitas I was hoping for. Still at least we can laugh about that now….