Interview by Margaret Behrns and the Walk In My Shoes Program Youth Ambassadors, Rhea, Sarina, and Annika.
Interview with Jordan Christian Fighting for My Voice: My Life with Verbal Apraxia
This interview is part of a larger project being conducted by the Walk In My Shoes Program for the purpose of learning more about the interplay of childhood medical conditions/developmental delays and bullying. The finished project will be posted on www.walkinmyshoes.net
Who is Jordan Christian? Jordan Christian is a 23 year old youth advocate with apraxia. He started a blog called Fighting for my Voice: My Life with Verbal Apraxia in order to spread awareness of speech differences and challenges and to help others connect with what it is like living with verbal apraxia. His mission is to be the person he needed when he was a child; to be that person from which children and parents can draw strength and hope.
Walk In My Shoes Program: Jordan, you say on your site that you started “Fighting for my Voice” because there were many times you felt like giving up but you kept going. What made you keep working as hard as you did?
Jordan: My mom pushed me to keep going. You know how people talk about Mama Bears? She is truly a Mama Bear.
Walk In My Shoes Program: Do you remember the moment you decided you were going to start speaking out about apraxia? What led to that moment?
Jordan: I was 22 the first time I heard that May is Apraxia month, and I thought I might share a video about my experiences with apraxia. But after I recorded it, I posted that I wasn’t feeling comfortable sharing it. A mother wrote to me saying she had a 12 year old boy and had been waiting for my video so that her son could see he wasn’t alone. It made me think back to when I was 12 and how I didn’t know anyone with apraxia. I felt “less-than.” I thought of that boy and decided to share the video. I decided to be the person I needed when I was younger.
Walk In My Shoes Program: You also mention that teachers used to yell at you for not articulating your words correctly, but that your mom had an SLP talk to the school about apraxia. How much of an impact did that have on you?
Jordan: It impacted how I was treated at school. She did other things too, like call the school board and other officials, and everything she did brought attention to the school and things changed.
Walk In My Shoes Program: What kind of changes did you notice in the school after that happened?
Jordan: 1) I stopped getting yelled at by teachers who didn’t understand that I was doing the best that I could. 2) They stopped grading my spelling work until I learned how to read and write--think about it...I was a child that didn’t know how to read or write, but they were having me take spelling tests. I was getting panic attacks from seeing the “Fs”. Having them hold off on grading my spelling until I was ready reduced my panic attacks. 3) I got more support from SLPs at school, they started working with me a lot. 4)Teachers became more patient, which I understand is hard in a fast-paced world, the world is always go, go, go. 5) And I learned that, just like others needed to be patient with me, I needed to be patient with myself.
Walk In My Shoes Program: What else can teachers do to help kids with medical conditions or developmental delays feel confident in themselves and feel comfortable interacting with others at school?
Jordan: Teachers should educate themselves about apraxia and other conditions experienced by their students. The more they understand what it is like, the better they will be able to serve their students.
Walk In My Shoes Program: You talk about the fact that a teacher told you you were never going to college and that you are really proud of the fact that you made it. How did you not let their expectations get you down? What gave you the drive to keep on going no matter what?
Jordan: I have the kind of personality where if someone tells me I can’t do something, I want to prove them wrong. It was my mindset that got me through that. I felt I owed it to myself to really try, and I didn’t want to let myself down. I knew I had to live my life for myself and not for others, because if I’m not living for myself, who exactly am I living for? But not everybody has that mindset. And without that mindset, having a teacher say that to a child could have really torn him apart.
Walk In My Shoes Program: What is your advice to children who are getting made fun of or bullied because they are different in some way? What is the most important thing for them to hang on to if they are going through a tough time, feeling different, or if they don’t feel as capable as others?
Jordan: 1) Tell a teacher that you trust.There are anti-bullying policies in schools to help. 2) Know your worth. You’re not less than anyone else. 3) Keep in mind that if you are being bullied it’s not a reflection of you but of them. 4) And if a person doesn’t like you, it’s not you, it’s just that the two of you didn’t click.
Walk In My Shoes Program: How can a child be a good friend to someone with apraxia? What can they do to help?
Jordan: The most important thing they can do is be patient. They can also have their friend's back. They should speak up if they are getting bullied, and they can tell a trusted adult. There was a time I couldn’t speak and couldn’t tell my mom what was happening to me at school, that I was being mistreated. My friend told his mom and she told my mom. I was really lucky to have that friend.
Walk In My Shoes Program: Aside from bullying and teasing, is there anything else you wish people wouldn’t do?
Jordan: Yes, I wish people would talk directly to the child. I’ve seen people ask a parent what their child would like when the child is right there--in fact, now that I think about it, that’s happened to me. I can remember thinking, “I’m right here, why aren’t they asking me?”
Walk In My Shoes Program: You are an invaluable resource because you understand what kids are going through, but you also have great insight into what the parents go through--and we know a lot of SLPs (speech-language pathologists) follow you too! What would you say to parents who worry that their child will have a lifetime of struggles ahead of them?
Jordan: I say this all the time--remember that your child’s current level of speech is not indicative of their future ability to speak. You have so much time left, and there is nothing wrong with having apraxia. Also, look at what apraxia has given you, look at who it has made you become, and see the value in the things you have learned through this experience. I find that children with apraxia are often hardworking and strong. It has made me who I am and I wouldn’t be me without it.
Walk In My Shoes Program: You are doing so many great things--your blog, mentoring kids, educating teachers, supporting parents, do you have something new coming up soon?
Jordan: Yes, I have some big projects coming up in the next couple of months, some of which I can’t reveal yet, but you can find hints on my social media pages. I can say that I have been working to get new laws passed that help law enforcement officers quickly learn if they have pulled over someone with apraxia, so that information will come up when they run their tags.
Walk In My Shoes Program: Thank you so much, Jordan, it’s been a pleasure talking with you and we wish you the best with your advocacy, mentorship, and all of your future projects.
For information about bringing the Walk In My Shoes Program to your school, contact firstname.lastname@example.org