Hi I’m Gavi. I am ten years old and I am in grade five at Deer Park Public School. I have NM, and one of the things that is the most difficult for me is that my voice isn’t as clear as other people’s because of my weaker muscles, so it is harder to understand me when I speak. As you can imagine, that impacts my life quite a bit because I definitely have a lot to say. But I still have tons of friends and people that understand me.
The Challenges I Face
Every year on the first day of school I do a speech with my communication device. My communication device is an ipad with a special program that has all kinds of words in it that you can press and the device will say them out loud. It also has a keyboard. If I were to type in “I like dogs way more than cats” and I press on that it would say that out loud. I use my voice almost all the time but when I need it I’ll use my device. The speech on the first day of school is about my disability and why I have a school nurse. I do this little speech so I can quickly answer all the kids’ questions that I know they have.
Usually, the speech goes great. But when I was in third grade doing my speech I said “Hi” with my voice and someone laughed. I started crying in the middle of my speech and left the classroom. That kid made me feel really bad about myself and I felt embarrassed leaving the classroom crying. When I stopped crying I went back in and finished my speech. The kid said sorry to me. I still felt mad but I was better. This year (grade five), after my speech, one of the kids in my class came up to me to tell me how brave I was for doing a speech about my disability on the first day of school – so that was definitely a much better response.
Another really annoying thing that happens sometimes is that when I go to doctor appointments or stuff like that some of the doctors don’t talk to ME they talk to my parents as if I am not in the room because they think I don’t understand. My parents have to tell them they can ask me the questions and not just them. I find it super annoying. I don’t know why they cannot just talk to me.
As you can see, having speech that is hard to understand can be very difficult. So you probably want to know – how do I make people understand me?
Well, I talk – the more you hear my voice, the more you’’ll understand me. My best friend understands me more than my sister sometimes does. But speaking doesn’t always work – especially if you don’t know me well. When people don’t understand me I use my phone and type in what I’m saying so they can read it and understand me.
I used to use my device to help people understand me. I don’t use it much anymore except for school presentations because it sounds like a robot and has no expression so I decided I would use my phone and repeat what’s on the phone while I show my phone to the person. That way people get to know my voice too.
Last October, I made a speech at a Candidates’ debate on accessibility before the Canadian election. My speech was about accessibility in schools and in transit. I did this speech in front of almost one hundred people. I projected the text of my speech on a screen while I read it aloud so I could use the expression of my voice and not just my device that sounds like a robot. At the beginning of my speech I felt so nervous I had butterflies, but as I read it I got more confident and less nervous. When I got off that stage I felt proud of myself and what I had done.
I was also on the Public Service Announcements for the Dear Everybody campaign – a campaign that works to promote inclusion and awareness of disability. The PSA was on the radio. I used my voice then my device repeated what I said. It was about ending stigma against children with disabilities.
One night me and my family went to a restaurant and this random lady came up to me and said “You are the prettiest girl in the restaurant”. Now you might think that seems nice but she is only saying that because I have a disability (I use a power wheelchair) and she feels bad for me. I said thank you but I felt very awkward. That was stigma towards me because she was patronizing me.
Sometimes I feel that “Why do I have to have a disability? Why me?” feeling. I wonder why I had to have it. But if I didn’t have a disability I wouldn’t be the same person. I use my power to help people with disabilities and I believe that you can too!