Despite having a speech impediment as a result of having Cerebral Palsy, I love talking! Much to the annoyance of my hubby, I’ll talk to anyone, anywhere! Give me a smile and I’ll start chatting as hubby roles his eyes once again!
Yes, I worry constantly that people won’t understand what I’m saying. But I love telling people about my life – my work, my husband, my kids and my Cerebral Palsy. I take every opportunity I can to talk to people because I don’t want them to pity me or feel sorry for me – I want people to realise that to me, disability is, for want of a better word, normal. I’m living a life just like anyone else and the more that people hear this, the more the stigma and fear around disability fade away.
I’ve done lots of public speaking over the years and no matter who my audience is, I always get nervous – again worrying that my message might not be understood. But by far, the most nerve-wracking, is when I do my disability awareness sessions in schools. Quite often when the kids come into the room, there’s a bit of snickering and laughing which teachers do their best to quieten down. I explain to the kids that it’s ok if they don’t understand me – if they let me know, I’ll repeat myself. By the end of the assembly, snickers are replaced with smiles and thank-yous! That’s why I love talking in schools – changing the perception of kids now means they’ll grow up realising that disability isn’t bad – just different.
Even when speaking to adults, I can see when some are nervous and a bit unsure. Then I crack a joke and their face just changes and I know they’re getting it. So many have approached me afterwards to say that my talk will help them in their work with clients or that I might be able to help someone they know. That makes the nerves all worthwhile.