Manchester University
Oak Leaves

October 7, 2016

Klemm, Jessica

Senior English major Jessica Klemm

Klemm Eloquently Addresses Apraxia of Speech

Destinee Boutwell

Senior English major Jessica Klemm stood on the stage of Cordier Auditorium and spoke with eloquence and passion about her experiences dealing with apraxia of speech. The VIA on Tuesday, Sept. 27, was the first of a new line of VIAs called Senior Series.  This new series was created to give seniors a chance to share their research and to give students a voice. 

At the age of two, Klemm began to struggle with apraxia of speech, which causes the brain to struggle with moving the muscles required for speech. She battled with speech impediments like word order and word recall throughout her childhood. She attended therapy lessons and worked with her public school to create an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, which allowed Klemm to have her tests read aloud and to work on them for an extended period of time.  

Her individual learning program set her apart from her other classmates, and she felt as if she was making little progress. “People talked about me and never with me,” Klemm said. “It hurt my parents a lot to hear words such as ‘disabled’ and ‘handicap.’” 
Klemm’s parents were also at the VIA, and they added their own perspective to the presentation. “We had to learn to be our child’s best advocate,” said Klemm’s mother as she tried to swallow her tears. “The school had limitations, budgets, and limited resources, and we had our child to look after. Thankfully, the school acknowledged that we were the experts on apraxia and they worked well with us”.

Klemm’s story was both educational and relatable. “I didn’t know anything about apraxia going into the VIA,” said Morgan Monnin, first year, after the presentation, “but now I know enough to appreciate the extra struggle that many kids have to face in order to even communicate and learn.”

Klemm’s presentation informed listeners about apraxia of speech, but it also inspired other students to begin sharing their struggles with speech disorders. Monnin had trouble pronouncing certain consonants and was in speech therapy up until her sixth grade year. 

Another Manchester student was touched by Klemm’s story because he or she also struggled with apraxia of speech growing up. “The videos of Jessica learning her words phonetically is exactly what I remember from my speech therapy days,” said the student, who wishes to keep his or her identity private. “I also had trouble reading in my early years, so I have many memories of my brother and mom reading to me and helping me to pronounce things.   
“I was in a speech competition my junior year of high school,” explained the student. “They didn’t treat me as if I had a language impairment; I had to give a prepared speech because I wanted to challenge myself. I went all the way to the national competition and placed somewhere in the middle of the pack. I was so thrilled.

“My teacher came up to me later and said that she never thought I would make it past the regional level,” the student continued, “But I did and I am so proud of myself for not letting my speech impediment define who I was and what I wanted to do.” 

Klemm described a similar experience. She said that many of her teachers and therapists didn’t think she would be able to survive college level work. “I became an English major to prove a point,” Klemm said. “Just because it says on paper I can’t do something it doesn’t mean I can’t.” Klemm thanked Manchester and all of its faculty for helping her to become her best self and to discover what she is capable of.