Along with being diagnosed with cerebral palsy very early on in my life. I also have a severe speech impediment. If I'm being perfectly honest, my speech impediment has been the disability that has been the most challenging. It has caused me the most stress and anxiety and has restricted me somewhat in life, and I talk about this in much more detail in my forthcoming autobiography, which is being published later this year.
Due to having communication issues and with my speech predominantly being challenging to understand, I have in the past declined certain activities and events like podcasts, inspirational talks and author visits because I have been so terrified about not being able to deliver the standard of talks I want to be able to tell my story, inspire people and make a difference to others, especially families and children who have disabilities.
But things are starting to change for the better. Covid was particularly difficult for me. Being stuck in the house and finding it hard to grab the confidence I was used to sometime before the pandemic, my confidence was at its lowest, and my anxiety levels had risen to the highest I had ever experienced. The old funny, creative and witty Gavin had vanished.
Still, those days are well in the past. I have now found my confidence again and believe I am in the best mindset ever. Over the past year or so, writing my autobiography about my life living with cerebral palsy and a speech impediment, finding a new love for networking and becoming a live Tiktok creator since then. I couldn't be happier.
I was at a Networking event at Greenmeadow Golf Club in Cwmbran in South Wales a few months back, and the networking event's organiser, the lovely Beverley Jones, spoke to me about doing a school visit. She said, 'Gavin, I think a visit to a school where the pupils have additional needs would be a perfect match for you,' when at the time I just nodded my head and agreed to speak with her contact over Facebook Messenger, in reality, at that moment a thunderbolt of anxiety started to strike through my soul, once again. Still, not to come across as rude, I managed to build up the courage to correspond with Natalie Johnson, a teacher at Woodlands School in Cardiff. Before this, my publisher, Clare and I had spoken numerous times, trying to figure out how I could physically conduct school visits. It's been tough, racking our brains to figure out a process that can eventually work in the best interest of the people interviewing or asking me questions. It's been an emotionally draining thought process up until now.
After speaking with Natalie on Facebook Messenger and explaining that due to having a speech impediment, I wouldn't be able to conduct a 'normal' author school visit where the more conventional schedule for authors when visiting schools is to workshop with pupils about the subject of their books, but I then went on to explain that I'm an Augmented and Alternative Communication user.
Here is a link where AAC is explained in some detail:-
I use a text-to-speech communication app on my iPhone called #proloquo4text, where I type in what I need or want to say, and then the words get spoken. So, going back to my Facebook Messenger conversation with Natalie, we then went on to agree that the way we would do the school visit was simply by the pupils sending me a list of questions to answer so I could then type the answers into #proloquo4text then record and covert them into workable MP3 audio files using an audio interface and recording software on my laptop. This meant I could then play back my augmented communication generated answers that I had saved on my computer through a speaker. I am proud to report that my first-ever school visit to Woodlands School in Cardiff was a huge success. The pupils were incredible, and some read their questions to me; then, I responded by clicking on the corresponding answer, which I had ready to playback on my laptop.
Here are some examples of the fantastic questions I was asked during my visit to Woodlands school:-
Have you always loved books?
Have you got any advice for us to become successful?
Do you think it's important that we celebrate our differences?
The feeling of sheer relief pouring out of my soul, seeing this unique way of conducting a school question and answer session was working in real terms and watching the positive reaction from the kids was the best moment ever. I cannot put my emotions at that moment into words. I feel like the anxiety surrounding doing public author events, whether it's networking or public speaking, is finally starting to retreat, and it has made me a better person in the sense that I now know that I can confidently begin to conduct more public events on my own in the future. Visiting Woodlands School was a life-changing moment, and I cannot thank Beverley and Natalie for being so kind and helping me regain my confidence.
Nothing is going to stop me now. However, suppose I get more opportunities to do school visits like this one and use my life experiences of living with cerebral palsy, alongside publishing my autobiography, to make a difference. In that case, the euphoria of facing my fear of public speaking will be immeasurable and will be worth the experience.
*For future reference:- For any interview, podcasts or school visits, in the best interest of both parties. Please can I request any interview or question-and-answer questions be sent to me at least seven to fourteen days before broadcasting or public event. Thanks for understanding.
Don't forget that both my children's books are available on Amazon. Here are the links:-
Max And The Magic Wish (All about disability and acceptance):- https://amzn.to/3OcCk7Y.
Paddy The Polar Bear Teddy (A magical space adventure story about courage, wisdom and friendship):- https://amzn.to/3zvZ7aZ.
The Disabled Writer