When I was born, I was kept in hospital for quite a while after. after, I was diagnosed with a few medical and physical conditions. I was diagnosed with having cerebral palsy, along with a cleft pallet, hair lip and epilepsy. Back then, knowledge and medication were not as advanced as today, so basically, my parents did everything in their powers to get the support we needed.
A few months after I was born, I went back into the hospital to have my first operation, and this was to correct my cleft pallet and close up my hair lip. Still, in the first four years of my life, I suffered from epilepsy and would often have seizures, which were sometimes quite severe. Still, with controlled medication, which I had to take five times a day, every day, my epilepsy seemed to get better and eventually the seizures stopped, meaning my last seizure happened thirty-two years ago now. Although I have cerebral palsy, my parents were determined to get me walking. I was having physiotherapy once a week. My father even made me a special walking aid, where he put house bricks in the bottom of it to weigh it down so I could push against it whilst learning the art of walking, and eventually, after nine years of my life, I learnt to walk unaided, and to this day, have never looked back!!
By the time I was in my twenties, the scar from my hair lip correction surgery was still visible, and like anybody in their twenties, growing up into adulthood, this was playing on my mind more and more. I was worried about my appearance, and consciously, I felt that people were noticing my scar even more. So I decided to have a second operation to remove the scar. I am now pleased I underwent this surgery, as my top lip's appearance is almost perfect. Still, looking back, I wish I had gone into surgery a lot earlier in life, because for a few weeks after, the pain I was in, was unbearable, which meant a lot of sleepless nights. For any parents with children with a hair lip, my advice would be to consider letting your child have these types of surgery as early in life as possible because I know that children can be more resilient in their recovery. On the other hand, this correction surgery is hopefully more advanced, which means less swelling and a quicker recovery period.
Hopefully, I've given you an insight into my childhood and teenage years. But now onto what I want to talk about, and that is living with a speech impediment. When I reached toddler age and got to the age where naturally you learn to speak and communicate, it became more evident to my parents that my speech was quite bad and wasn't improving. Hence, they took me to see a Speech Therapist, where I would go for weekly appointments for a good few years. They would try to get me to pronounce the basic sounds of speech, but I found this very difficult, in my head, and to me, they sounded as if they were coming out clear, but after a while, there was no improvement, and hasn't been to this very day. Whenever I speak now, the words that I speak sound as if they are coming out clearly and as normal as anyone else, but there's still been no improvement. Admittedly, this does frustrate me sometimes. I feel like just giving up talking altogether, but I think about how lucky I am even to have any voice, and there are people out there who unfortunately can't talk at all. There are some positives about having a speech impediment. Still, admittedly, there are many negatives, not being able to do the simple and essential things in life such as paying a simple gas or electric bill over the telephone, telephone job interviews, and skype interviews. In everyday life, like speaking to people at a supermarket checkout or desk asking for assistance, that can prove difficult sometimes, I've even had one person tell me to leave because they couldn't understand me. Things are getting easier nowadays, though. You can pay most things, such as essential bills online. You can almost buy anything online, such as clothes which are more comfortable for me. You can even food shop online now; so things are getting more accessible. But on the other hand, this means more and more people, who mostly have speech impediments ending up not getting out and about, and even trying to overcome these difficult situations, and most importantly educate other people on how to help people with speech impediments over-come these barriers.
I know that there are speech recognition devices out there to help people with everyday life. Lee Ridley, 'The Lost Voice Guy' uses one. Before I started comprehensive school, I was given one. It was hoped that this voice recognition device would help me communicate, so I gave it a good go. Still, it just wasn't working out for me, which was frustrating, because I felt that this device wasn't improving my everyday life at all. It was increasingly slowing me down. Because back then, these devices weren't touch screen, but had Qwerty keyboards on them, yes, you could program them to store specific everyday sentences. Still, in most cases, you had to type what you wanted to say letter by letter, which was just not workable because by the time you typed out what you wanted to get across (in my cases, mostly jokes), the conversation had completely moved on to another subject. My life was moving at such a pace, I was studying, I was out socialising, and to be completely honest, this device I had, which was a lot bigger in size than they are nowadays, was hindering me from making progress in life, rather than helping me. So I've just got on with my life, without any help and without using speech recognition technology.
Now, let's get on to writing and how my speech impediment affects that process. From an inspiration point of view, it's a huge positive. I generally tend to bottle a lot of what I'm feeling up deep down inside my soul because of my speech. So writing stories, blogs, lyrics, and course songwriting help me release all of my feelings, frustrations and sometimes worries by putting them down in the form of words and lyrics. Some of the greatest songs of all time have shot to the top because of this. The negative is sometimes communicating with fellow people, such as other authors, publishers, producers and other songwriters. Social media and email have helped me a lot, allowing me to connect industry people who I wouldn't have been able to if I'd had to connect with people via the telephone. I'm so very grateful for everybody who has taken their time and put their trust in me by communicating through social media and email. I've had some producers and songwriters asking to co-write by skype. Unfortunately, I've had to turn these opportunities down because I don't feel confident communicating with someone new over skype. Still, admittedly, once you get to know me, you will understand me better, and maybe skyping, is an area I need to try and trust myself and other people in doing? I very often attend networking events, especially John Saunderson's Notting Hill Networking Events. Again, from the point of view having a speech impediment, there are some positives and some negatives, the positives are I get to meet lots of amazing people. Still, I admittedly tend to hold back in approaching people to talk to them, with that worry in my head and thinking 'what if they can't understand what I'm trying to say?'
From a writing perspective, up until now, with the studios that I use and the producers that I've built working relationships up with, we've come up with our unique way of working overtime. If there's anything I want to say or get across, I type it onto a working document on a laptop we always set up ready to go. I've got to say; this has worked out to be the perfect songwriting process which takes away any speech impediment issues. It also allows us to write some killer songs this way. From now on, I know that I need to keep building up my confidence which will hopefully allow me to expand my writing network even further on professional and most importantly, on a more personal level too. Hopefully, this will lead me to pursue my dream of co-writing even more children's books and songs, maybe opening even more doors, proving to myself that having a speech impediment may not be as bad as I think after all!!