There’s a great (but long) article on Wired about Scott Adams’ (the creator of the iconic Dilbert) struggle with a not-so-rare brain condition that affected his speech. Here it is.
The condition was called spasmodic dysphonia:
The rules dictated when and where Scott Adams, the chief engineer of the Dilbert comic empire, was allowed to speak. He could neither control them nor predict exactly when they’d go into effect. All he knew was that he’d woken up one morning and found that his voice had turned against him, imposing a set of bizarre restrictions.
Take the rule about crowds. If Adams was at a party with friends, he’d open his mouth to talk, only to find the words tumbling out in a raspy, imperceptible staccato, chopping off sentences before they had a chance to form. If he tried to say, “Tomorrow is my birthday,” for example, it would morph into a weak “Ma robf sss ma birfday.” But if he was on the lecture circuit, delivering a prepared speech to a crowd of thousands, he could stand behind the podium and—”Hello!”—his voice would whir back to life, if only for the hour he was onstage.
What I love about Scott’s approach to his new-found disability was his conviction that he could solve the problem, that it could be fixed.
After a few more searches, Adams arrived at his own diagnosis: spasmodic dysphonia. It was another neurological disorder, one that causes the throat muscles to clamp down erratically on the vocal cords, strangling speech. In all of Adams’ meetings with physicians, no one had even mentioned SD; the disorder is so rare that few doctors have heard of it. Adams tracked down a throat specialist, who confirmed Adams’ findings and told him that SD had no known cure. He’d never regain his normal speaking voice.
Adams ignored this prognosis. He had heard the same thing about his finger. Again, he thought there had to be a fix.
“I’m gonna cure it,” he thought. “And when I do, I’m gonna cure it for everybody. I’m gonna wipe it off the face of the earth.”
This is how I feel about aspergers, learning disabilities and ADHD. There have to be ways to fix these problems if we could just stop saying these conditions are incurable.
It will take research, work, curiousity, trial and error, and the courage to become experts in the face of the designated and qualified experts.
If I can underscore my point with a real life example from our experience with Fast ForWord. When my daughter had finished the Fast ForWord programme, I started to get reports from her school that this was just a different kid. She could focus, she could remember, she could understand. I even had her working memory and processing speed re-tested — and despite the anecdotal experience and the testing numbers, only two of the professionals I encountered would believe it had anything to do with Fast ForWord. It was because she was more mature. It was the presence of an aide in the classroom. It was because of her medication. It was certainly NOT because of Fast ForWord. Couldn’t be. Impossible.
Which is way I’ve chosen to be the Captain Kirk of this little Enterprise. To boldly go where no one has gone before. My goal continues to be that my daughter loses her diagnosis by her eighteenth birthday. 5 years left.
Who’s with me?
And thanks Scott for being such a great example of what we can accomplish when tenacity is combined with the right mind set.