Out of all my impairment related difficulties I have, my most challenging is my speech impairment. This is something I have needed to overcome all my life. I believe I have been extremely successful in how I manage my impairment although it has remained a key component in my impairment identity and something I had to embrace with pride.
On a practical level, the easiest way of overcoming my speech impairment is simply not talking. The improvements in technology over the years has made the need to talk much less with emails, texting, instant messaging and so on. I now only use of phone as a last resort when other methods are unavailable and only with the assistance of my personal assistant.
When I do need to talk, I prefer to speak unaided as most people can understand most of what I say if they are willing to try, which is sadly sometimes not the case. When this option is not working, the next solution is to use my personal assistant to translate what I am saying as I am saying it. I now do this at most of my meetings, especially my important ones, so I am sure I am heard and I can say more as opposed to sticking with terms I believe people will understand better, which can make me appear blunt.
My final option as a last resort, or in very noisy environments, is using a special app on my iPad as a communication aid. The aim of this solution is to support my speech and help listeners who are having issues understanding specific words or phrases. I am not amused when people do not bother to try to listen to me when they know I have my iPad as a communication aid, and I will not simply play ball as I demand they at least try to listen to me.
In understanding the limits of the social model, I acknowledge that with all the things society and I can do to limit the effects of my speech impairment, it is still a part of my identity and people who I meet face to face will have a psycho-social response to it. My speech, along with my jerky movements, still puts me in the realms of being a freak, where many other impairments have now been accepted into the social norm.
Being a freak is not a criticism but an observation, and a status that comes with the power of fear and embarrassment. People do not often know what to do when they meet me and that gives me the opportunity to guide the interaction. They often have no previous social norms in meeting someone like myself, and so in their confusion, I can dictate the norms I want to be used. It is a power that few people understand or able to consciously utilise.
The disadvantage of the appearance that my speech impairment provides is that many people assume that I have a learning difficulty to some degree. This can be very frustrated from me, especially as I know I am often the superior intelligent being in the relationship as a matter of fact, although I hope I do not come across as arrogant, I believe I am no more or no less equal than anyone else. When someone has made their mind up you have a learning difficulties, the only way to prove your intelligence is sarcasm as anyone can be programmed to say a list of achievements where making people laugh spontaneously requires great skill.
I would never wish my speech impairment away as I have built my whole personality and skills set around it, when you are very different, you have to play the game differently to succeed to shine my strengths and turn my weaknesses into what makes me strong. I believe I have embraced my speech impairment and turned it into an advantage.