When my mom was pregnant with my little brother, I remember wishing he was a girl instead. I wanted a baby sister—but was given a little brother instead, and although it disappointed me at first, I quickly got over my desire for a little sister. Even though his head was a little too big for his body and he didn’t talk much, he was adorable. He would barely talk and mostly laugh. By three, my brother was still only babbling and the few words he said were barely understood by anyone except for, surprisingly, seven-year-old me. My brother and I gained a special bond due to this as I was the only one who could understand what he was trying to communicate. My whole family would call me his “translator.”
By the time he turned three, my parents began to realize that his lack of talking and inability to communicate was an issue. They decided to put him in preschool early and hoped that would help him to talk and form words, as he would be forced to communicate with the other students. Unfortunately, putting him in preschool early wasn’t the best solution. My brother struggled to communicate with the other kids. Instead of talking, he attempted to use his actions. This became a problem when he wanted to communicate that he was not okay with something. I saw him struggle to get people to understand what he wanted. Struggling to be understood through words, my brother found refuge in violence. With this, he began to have anger issues and used violence as a result of everything and anything.
I specifically remember one event where my brother’s anger couldn’t be communicated through words and rather resulted in violence. I was in line outside of the library with my first-grade class waiting to be let in for our library class. Suddenly, I saw my three-year-old brother crying as he was being led down the hallway by his teacher. I continued to watch as she led him into the principal’s office. I instantly wanted to run to him and comfort him; however, my teacher wouldn’t let me as it was time to file into library class. Later that night, I found out that my brother had been mad at a girl in his class for taking his markers. He was angry and struggled to express his anger through words and instead threw his chair at the little girl. I remember feeling awful for the little girl and my little brother.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this moment was one of my first times recognizing human dignity. I was aware that the little girl and my brother contain an intrinsic value. Although my brother’s actions were wrong, I recognized that he still contains dignity and deserves to be understood. My brother was soon after taken out of preschool and it became apparent that my brother needed to see a speech pathologist. Going to a pathologist greatly helped my brother. It made a difference in his speaking and communicating. Because of this, his anger issues also decreased. Although outwardly it may seem that the speech pathologist performed nothing close to a miracle on my brother, as his speaking only gradually got better and, to this day, is still sometimes difficult to understand, she became my brother’s friend and hero. My brother would come home from school saying that his favorite part of his day was going to play—what he saw as games with the speech pathologist. She truly made my brother feel valued and understood despite his speech disability. She made a difference in his life and I hope to one day to do the same. This event is one of the reasons I have decided that I want to become a pathologist. I desire to aid those with speech disabilities and provide them with the understanding and respect they deserve as humans.
One of my fondest childhood memories is waking up to hearing my little five-year-old brother on an early Saturday morning loudly announcing to the whole house, “It’s mownin’ time!” He would announce it in such an altruistic way as if he truly wanted to make it known to the family that it’s already morning and we must not waste another minute of good daytime by sleeping. Although his speech disability brought a lot of difficulties, it also brought a lot of joy. This being said, his disability didn’t make him any less human. As a speech pathologist, I desire to help make this known to others with speech disabilities and, who knows, maybe along the way, I’ll also become someone’s friend and hero.
Written by Gabriela C., a member of WYA North America and the chapter at the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND.