The Power of Being Different
Author: Corrina Chang; M.S., CCC/SLP - Kids First Speech and Language Intervention
Published On: 11/07/2019
Several weeks after I was born, I was diagnosed with NF Type 1. Today, I am a Speech and Language Pathologist running my own Speech and Language Intervention Clinic. How I became the woman I am today is the story of how Neurofibromatosis became my ‘superpower.’
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher. From a very young age I lined up my dolls and pretended various bedrooms in my house were my classrooms, implementing recess, gym, and other subjects. The irony is that even though I loved playing teacher, school itself was extremely challenging. From fourth to eighth grade I had at least one laser surgery a month to remove multiple café au lait skin spots from my face. At the age when all I wanted was to be like everyone else, I was visibly marked different by my diagnosis of NF. I was called “birthmark girl,” “bandage girl,” and “ugly.” I had neurofibromas all over my body and was afraid to even wear shorts or short sleeved shirts. The bullying was painful to endure and it brought on stress which didn’t help my reoccurring migraines. However, my struggles with reading, studying and test taking were even bigger challenges. I studied hard but it never seemed good enough. It was heartbreaking to overhear my parents discuss their concern about whether I would even graduate high school, let alone get into college.
I felt utterly hopeless. I was afraid I would never have a successful life. My dream of being a teacher died, buried under an intense feeling of being different and a lack of self-confidence. How could I teach anybody anything when I could barely graduate high school?
After I managed to graduate high school, I enrolled in hotel administration school at my local community college. But when I flunked an accounting class in my first year, I decided to drop out of school. But my parents did not give up. My mother especially, with her patience and encouragement, suggested I move to California and start fresh at a junior college. She and my dad kept me moving forward even when I continued to struggle with my academic coursework. It wasn’t until my third year of college that I was finally diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADHD. Getting the diagnosis gave me hope. It provided me with the opportunity to attend workshops, receive the proper tutoring and training to learn. It was then that I started to embrace that I learned differently.
Very soon after, the door to my life’s work was opened by a special needs girl who was blind and Deaf. She reminded me of my childhood dream of being a teacher. Through working with her and taking her to Speech Therapy, I knew I wanted to teach kids with learning disabilities. I tailored my education to attain this goal, which eventually grew into running my own clinic called Kids First. I work with preschool and school-age children, teenagers, and young adults with language delays/disorders, autism, neurological disorders, and developmental delays. My therapeutic techniques include the social use of language narratives, executive functioning, and language processing. My core belief and my mission statement is that it’s up to us, as professionals, to open our minds and be creative about how we teach children. I am blessed to meet amazing families in my practice. I am a Speech and Language Pathologist and I treat speech and language disorders, but my biggest goal for my patient’s families is to provide them with hope.
Looking back, I can see that all my experiences have helped guide me toward my career and the person I am today. The bullying taught me deep empathy for others. I won’t tolerate a child being singled out by anyone based on their appearance, diagnosis, or academic abilities. With all my heart, I believe every child is beautiful inside and out. It may not be an easy ride to go through the bumps on the road and we may have physical and emotional scars because of it, but every scar tells a story and that is what makes us strong.
It’s not always easy to see what your superpower is...I consider myself lucky to be able to say that Neurofibromatosis is my superpower and I am proud of it.
For further informaton and to view Kids First Speech and Language Intervention website, please click here.