Finding a Voice

What is Developmental Learning Disorder (DLD)...

Here we try to explain how DLD affects Damian and explain what it is. In the sidebar, is a handful of talks that Damian has done for Afasic.

About DLD

Dysphasia is a term that was used by Afasic back when Damian started spreading awareness of this disability in the early '90s. The disability comes in many different varieties and is known by professionals, such as doctors, as a disability that you get from a stroke. It was not known that you can get it from a stroke while the child is in the womb. This is what has happened to him.

Although Damian can speak as well as the next person, albeit slow and at times hesitant, there are people with DLD who were much worse off than him. Who are not able to speak despite them having speech therapy virtually their whole life, and that is because they may have other disabilities that hinder them from speaking, such as cerebral palsy and/or dyspraxia. They will use technology that will help them to speak.

Living with DLD, in his view, no different to living as a ‘normal’ person. You still can do the same things as everyone else, just not be able to communicate as well as everyone else. Over the years he has had a lot of speech and language therapy at Dawn House School and then he could talk as, albeit slow, everyone else. Damian does have some understanding problems, but if he has people take time out, then he's able to be able to make himself clear for people.

DLD is common as more than 6,000 children in the United Kingdom but, like a fingerprint, you won’t find two dysphasics who are the same. He had friends from school, and they were all different to him.

Damian find it difficult to meet new people and find himself at points stuttering words that have the letters ‘sh’, so it does take him longer to make friends. People often don’t understand the disability and don’t want to bother talking to him or interrupt him, or even try to finish off his sentences. This annoys his and he get frustrated by it.

Damian wrote a story on Facebook®, about his problems meeting new people, titled “Random Thoughts: Life of a dysphasic”:

“You meet someone and start chatting to them, they look at you strangely as if to say 'Wtf you're saying?' And you realize that your words are coming out all mixed up. You try to slow your brain out, but a whole paragraph has been sent.

“You feel the sweat start to form. You look about yourself wishing that you weren't in this situation.

“You try again, but all that comes out is stuttering. The sweat starts to form beads across your forehead and you panic even more. Hell has just come up and said 'Yup, you're in my environment now'. The guy looks at you and start to laugh. Omg, he has laughed at you. You panic even more as another thought passes through your mind.

“You look at him, again still trying to slow your brain down so you can talk more smoothly and make sense of what this is all about. The guy has now brought over his friends and they are making fun of you. The thought still in your mind. You panic, the sweat is taking its time to fall but it’s now visible. You try again. The stutter reappears as the brain is sending the paragraph to the mouth.

“You feel alone and helpless and you wish that you could get out of the situation. Freak is passing through you mind. The guys are thinking it. They hate you because you're disabled. Your head is spinning and you feel as if you're in a non-ending rollercoaster ride to Hell. You look around and try to make your goodbyes. But they want you to stay.

“Taunting is on the mind of your attackers. You back away, but they follow. 'Why go? The party is just getting started' they laugh. You feel the tears welling up to your eyeballs. The stuttering is still on the go. You think 'Please mind, slow down' and yet, it doesn't. You still back away, hoping someone who doesn't think you're a freak will see you and save you. The Devil is behind the guys saying, 'You're mine now! Hahaha' and the sweat is now pouring down like Niagara Falls.

“The taunters see and laugh even more. ’You're a freak because you can't talk properly' they scream. You turn and run and find them chasing you laughing and shouting 'Why leave? We haven't finished with you freak!!' You try to run away from them, but their breathing is on your neck. You run faster. And turn a corner and they say 'Why leave?' You desperately search for an answer but none comes. You back away and they follow still taunting.

“You manage to say something and finally you realizing that your mind has slowed down and you say something intelligent and they look at you and are surprised. But you are now scared of them as you realize that they're another bunch of people who thinks you're a freak.”

Damian felt that this was the best way to show people through words and imagery. When his Facebook® friends read it, everyone was complimenting the story and asking him questions about it. He was not sure how the world will take it, but he did find out. It was also nominated for the Dusted award, an award that was given to students who wrote a brilliant article for the University of Derby Student magazine. Though, the version that was in the magazine, Damian wasn’t very keen on it as they had changed the wording and it didn’t have quite the impact that it received on Facebook. But, he was glad that it was nominated as it showed people what it is like to be dysphasic and meeting new people.