Speed: The Fallacy of Conformity

Hello Everyone,

I hope your week is ending on a beautiful, purply note! As some of you may have noticed, I have been publishing new posts less frequently the past few months.  This is because I have had a few new opportunities appear unexpectedly. These opportunities have siphoned some of my time from my blog. So, I have decided to take a hiatus from blogging for a while. However, I will leave my past blog posts up until my return. Below is my last post for now. As always, may you all be surrounded by purply blessings!  😊

Love and blessings always,

Allison

 

Growing up, I had years and years and years of speech therapy which was quite effective. When I started speech therapy, few people outside of my family and close friends could understand me and even they had difficulty at times. But, after several years of speech therapy, people can now understand me relatively easily on the first try.

There is just one exception to this: telling a joke. I can always say the setup of the joke just fine, and everyone understands me. However, when I am about to say the punch line, I always start cracking up laughing to the point that I am bright red and can barely speak. At this point, I usually look around to see absolutely befuddled looks on the faces of my audience. I take a deep breath, stop laughing just long enough to get out 2 or 3  words between peals of laughter and then it’s over. I am cracking up again and my family and friends are just laughing, shaking their heads and asking each other, “did you get that?’’ They are laughing, not because the joke was funny(because, after all, they still don’t know the punchline), but because I am laughing so hard that they can’t help but to laugh. Aaahhhhh, the joys of having CP speech and  a sense of humor!

Aside from telling jokes, my speech improved so much, that by the time I entered high school I no longer needed speech therapy. Hooray! Throughout my childhood and into my adult life, I only knew speech therapy to be used for improving speech intelligibility and communication effectiveness. So, I was surprised when I came across an article early last  year which indicated that speech therapy is also effective at helping those with CP who have breathing challenges. Once I had recovered from the most serious part of my illness last year, I found an awesome speech therapist to do sessions with me in my home.

For those unfamiliar with speech therapy protocol, it always starts with an evaluation(eval) in which the therapist evaluates various things like your speech, swallowing and breath control and then determines goals and a treatment plan based on the eval. During my eval, my therapist asked me to speak slower. When I slowed down, my muscles immediately relaxed. I was so much more comfortable in my body and speaking and breathing became so much easier. After the eval, the first goal she mentioned was slowing down my rate of speech. She explained that I try to say as many words as possible with each breath, which causes my already tight muscles to tighten even more and leads to all sorts of other difficulties.

When she said this, I immediately knew she was right given my experience during the evaluation, but I felt  my entire body tighten; I felt resistance to the idea of slowing down my speech. I thought to myself, “I already speak slowly because of my CP. The idea of speaking even slower is not among my top choices for methods of improving my health. Is it even fair to ask people to take even more time to wait for me to articulate myself? Would they be patient and wait, or would they hurry me along by trying to complete my sentences for me when I didn’t want them to?(Sometimes I do need someone to help me by completing my sentences but I always let people know when to do this.)” While these thoughts crossed  my mind, my therapist asked me my thoughts about this goal.

As I started formulating my answer, I flashed back to being in elementary school when I walked with crutches. At that age, I pretty much detested my crutches because they slowed me down. I couldn’t run, or even walk quickly, when I used them. They forced me to walk slowly—the worst thing on earth to 7 year old Allison. At school, if there wasn’t a teacher nearby, I would leave my crutches under my desk, or hold my crutches off the ground as I walked, so I could get to my destination a second quicker(to a seven year old, a second is a lifetime, or at least the difference between being in front of the line or in back of the line at school!). I was certain that getting to my destination that much quicker was somehow better. I was somehow in the know and more like everyone else if I could walk closer to the speed of someone without my type of CP. However, this tactic resulted in a number of falls, and trips to the ER, during my younger years. I remember both my parents imploring me to use my crutches and slow down. Even though I knew it was better for my  muscles to proceed slowly, I still wanted to “keep up” and conform to my idea of “typical” as much as possible.

Then, I flashed to my first year of college. When I entered college, I was certain I’d be able to finish in 5 years and go on to grad school. My first semester, I took 2 classes, was active in extracurriculars and was healthy. However, finishing college in 5 years required me to take 3 courses per semester. So, second semester freshman year,  I took 3 classes and was sick by the middle of the second week of classes. I dropped a class, my health returned and I figured the following year I’d be able to take more classes per semester. I tried taking 3 classes two more times. Both attempts resulted in health complications. My body was telling me to slow down but I wanted to will my body to conform to the idea that faster is better.

Disheartened by the realization that taking 3 classes per semester and graduating in 5 years  simply was not in the cards for me, I did what most young adults do. I called my mom! She patiently listened to me as I explained my “predicament” and my deep concern over what kind of grad school would admit someone who needed so many years to complete undergrad. Once I finished, she said, everyone has their own path and yes, maybe some people finish college in 4 years, but I’m not some people, I’m me. Just focus on doing the best I can at my own pace and the rest will work itself out. Above all, go slowly and stay healthy(my mom’s constant refrain when it comes to me!).

So, I just focused on doing my best at a slower pace. As I saw my friends who started college the same year I did graduate years before me, it was a bit tough;  but my mom’s reminder that I have my own path(one paved in purple of course) to chart at my own pace gave me solace , strength and patience. I slowly made it through college and had a BLAST while doing so! My earlier concern regarding the type of grad school that would admit me became a distant memory when, after seven years of college, I was accepted by my top choice.

After these two vignettes played in my mind’s eye, my attention returned to my speech therapist’s question. How did I feel about slowing down my rate of speech? The tension in my body receded and I answered honestly, but with the wisdom of someone who is coming to understand the fallacy of conformity, “I will need to adjust to it, but I know it will be worth it!” Here’s to charting your own path at your own pace!

5 people like this.
  • Victoria Gordon Findlay

    Dearest Allison, What a wonderful blog entry. Yes, we all must discover our own path and rhythm. So happy that you have found yours as you live your bliss. Love, Mom

  • Roberta Thompkins

    i love reading this, it brought back a lot of memories. especially the part about you holding your crutches in the air so you could walk faster. I used to be in panic mode because I just know I was going to get hit. lol