Ability Now, Communication

Hi all,

here is the newest speech transcript in our Ability Now speaking series. I hope you enjoy it!


Communication Speech


Hello Everyone.  It’s nice to see all of you again.  Today, Steve and I are talking about the importance of having good communication skills and being your own self advocate.

Since I have had a speech impediment my entire life, I had to learn how to use my communication device very early on, in order to be where I am today.  Before I got my computerized talker at the age of nine, all I had to work with was a picture board where I pointed to pictures to tell people what I wanted or needed help with.  For example, when I wanted a drink of water I pointed to a picture of a cup. But that wasn’t enough for me - I wanted more. With the help of my then speech therapist, Marilyn, I was able to get a computerized communication device.  However, I had no idea how to use it or what to do with it. I remember Marilyn forcing me to ask her whatever questions that I could think of, and making me tell her what I did during the weekend so that I could learn to type and how to use my new device.  She and I would sit in the room quietly and she wouldn’t say anything until I started the conversations. With perseverance and motivation I exceeded in her expectations. Not only did Marilyn teach me how to use my first talker, she taught me how to ask questions, how to tell people what I want and need.  And how to start conversations and keep them going. Working with Marilyn definitely changed my life, and she gave me the confidence to use my talker to show my personality, and that was the beginning of a whole new world for me.


For some reason I wasn’t allowed to take talkers home every day.  I was only allowed to take it home on weekends and during summers.  I never really understood the purpose of that, so I had to find other ways to communicate with my family.  I would hand write notes with pens and paper to my parents when I wanted and needed to tell them things. Fortunately, my dad and my younger sister, Allyson, were able to understand my verbal speech pretty well without having me write everything down.  Out of my whole family, Allyson could understand me the best. Sometimes I said something to my mom and if she didn’t understand me, she would ask Allyson to translate. And Allyson would repeat what I said word for word. My mom was always so impressed with Allyson’s ability to understand me so well and so was I.

Talking on the phone with a speech impediment was always fun and games…  I had a few great friends from school who for the most part could understand my speech over the phone.  When they didn’t understand what I was saying, they had me spell the words out. Sometimes they asked, “What letter does the word start with?” I’d say, “P,” and they would say, “b?” I’d say, “No, p.” They would say, T? D? C? and so on.  They would even ask, “Are you sure it’s not T? That’s what it sounds like you are saying.” It was always so funny. When my friend, Elyse finally guessed the correct letter, she was so happy and say, “YAYY!!! I got it!!!!!!!!” If they couldn’t figure out what letter I was saying, they started saying the alphabet.  My friend, Micki, said talking to me over the phone was like playing Wheel of Fortune. She used to call me Vanna when we were on the phone. Unlike Elyse, Micki had to write down what I was saying otherwise she forgot the previous word or letter. Every so often Micki asked, “Can I buy a vowel?” As you can see communicating on the phone took a lot of time and patience.  There were times when I said, “It’s okay. Never mind. Forget it.” But Elyse and Micki always insisted that I keep trying. Even though these phone calls were trying and frustrating at times, and took a lot of patience, and a whole lots of laughs, they would always eventually figure out what I was saying.


At my junior college, my friend, Ann, was so determined to understand my verbal speech that she would not let me type on my talker.  Just like talking on the phone I said the sentence first and then we would go through it word by word or letter by letter. Sometimes I said a sentence, and Ann would say something that was totally off the wall.  She knew that wasn’t what I said, but to her that was what it sounded like. For example, I said, “I have an algebra test on Wednesday.” Trying to repeat my sentence, Ann’s interpretation was like, “I saw an alligator on skates on Sunday.”  Her interpretations were always so hilarious that I always had to crack up, which took even more time. No matter how much time it took, Ann was extremely patient and determined to understand my speech. We went through this a couple of times a day on a daily basis, so Ann told everyone that she was taking VSL, which is Vanessa as a Second Language.  Her finals was a phone conversation with me. I gave her a “B.” At the end of the semester I even made Ann a report card. For the class, I gave Ann an “A.”

Looking back on these experiences, I wish my speech therapists worked on my verbal speech.  Not just my communication devices. I’m sure that my speech would be a little much clearer if they have done that.


Being able to use my communication device effectively is extremely important to me.   If I didn’t have my talker, communicating with anybody would be really difficult. Most people definitely are not as patient as my sister and my friends, so my talker has always been very beneficial for me.   It’s empowering and gives me a lot of confidence. Having the ability to tell people exactly what I want and need is great. It is crucial. It gives me the power to be my own self advocate, and that is what all of us need to do.  Whether you talk with your own voice or with a communication device, you must be able to communicate clearly and effectively. It’s always nice to have someone in your corner for those everyday life situations; but it’s up to you the make that final decision for yourself - - whatever that may be.


In this day and age, the best way to communicate with me is by email or text; though I prefer emailing over texting.  It’s easier for me to use a regular keyboard than on my phone. I can’t use a touch screen phone like the Iphone, so I have a manual flip phone, and where I live, the reception sucks.  Steve will text me in the morning, but I won’t get it until that afternoon or evening. It’s crazy. So I tell everyone to email me or send me a message on Facebook. For my business and important things, email is the best for me.  If you have trouble talking on the phone, you must have an alternate way of communicating that is best for you.