Updated: Sep 3
I am Samantha Sewell (She/Her). I am 25 years old and from Vernon, BC, Canada; at the age of 2.5, I was diagnosed with Apraxia of speech. Actually, I was diagnosed with a "Severe speech impediment" as my SLP had never heard of Apraxia, but this diagnosis was updated to Apraxia sometime later.
Currently, I am the founder, sole shareholder, and educator at Raising Stars Preschool Ltd. I opened Raising Stars with the hope of creating an inclusive start to education for all children.
I am also the reigning Miss Universal Global and an International Public Speaker. I have spoken to tens of thousands of individuals worldwide on Inclusion and on Apraxia. I have been seen speaking in 2 countries (and in 30 counties via the internet), 8 USA states, and 3 Canadian provinces. Winning my most recent pageant of Miss Universal Global was a win for all children worldwide with Apraxia.
When I was around one and a half, my parents realized that I was speaking completely non-understandable; none of what I was saying was understandable to them, so they took me to an SLP whom my brother was seeing at the time. Immediately, the SLP noticed something was wrong. About a year later, the SLP would tell my parents that I would never speak like everyone else and that I would need speech therapy for the rest of my life.
Growing up, I remember a quiet life in my early years; I went to a small school of less than 100 children, and there were a couple of children who used ASL to communicate. It wasn't until high school that I started to really struggle with school and bullying. The school told me I would not graduate with the dogwood (which is the BC mainstream); however, my Mom insisted that I stay in the mainstream, and I actually graduated high school and college one week apart in 2016!
I am were I am today because of hard work, determination, and my support system. When I was younger, I hated speech therapy, but my Mom especially pushed me to do speech games in the car, at the ice rink, or anytime we were out; she had me constantly talking, putting my "tongue on the spot," and doing speech practices.
Once I got to high school, it was more on me; my responsibility was to keep it going. I had to advocate to have the SLP come into the high school to work with me; I had to explain my use of a computer in class to the teachers; I had to learn to be my own advocate. While it was incredibly hard, it made me stronger and a better me now!
People still ask me about my speech all the time; I will admit I can be very self-conscious of it. I have an intense "apraxic" accent. When people nowadays ask me where my accent is from, I tell them proudly that I have a speech impediment called Apraxia. Then, I have to educate them on not apologizing for that fact. There are sometimes when adults can be mean about it. I have been told at pageants that I should not be commenting because of my speech. I was even told once that I should not be Mceeing events because my voice is too loud and too annoying (this was heard on a live stream, and I received a lot of international support after this); I will be the first to tell anyone that it is hard, for me especially when someone says that I am yelling I tend to take offense to it because I do not mean to yell, I just can't control the volume. But my support system is people I can go to for support and to decompress. I also like to remind myself that they have never lived a day with Apraxia, and they don't know what it is like.
I live every day to the quote that I used to start my International Pageant intro, and that is "The first step to being empowered is to embrace your disability," and that is what I try my hardest to do, to embrace what makes me different.
I educate people worldwide on Apraxia and on person's first language (which goes hand in hand); I do this because there were no Apraxia advocates when I was a child and when my speech was really bad. I remember the hard days thinking no one knew or understood what I was going through or why is a simple thing so hard for me but easy for everyone else. I want every child out there to see me doing what I am doing and know that Apraxia doesn't define who I am or what I can do!
I also believe that people with disabilities should be the ones to advocate for us! I have been people say they advocate for people with disabilities only to get offended when I correct them and ask them to say People with Disabilities, not Disabled people.
I want to future Apraxia warriors to know that they can do anything they put their mind to, even become a public speaker! Our Apraxia makes us unique and nothing less than anyone else!
To follow Samantha and support her, as she supports our foundation and the cause of childhood apraxia of speech, follow her here: https://www.facebook.com/SamASewell?mibextid=b06tZ0