Amanda Coviello is 33 years old and has participated in SONH activities since 1997. She has competed in basketball, bowling, floor hockey, alpine skiing, golf, swimming and equestrian. She represented New Hampshire and the USA at the 2009 World Winter Games in Idaho and she is a Global Messenger. Here is Amanda’s story…

Do you know what it is like for people to think you are stupid because you talk differently? I do.

I was born in August of 1987. A bit earlier than was planned because it was found in ultrasound that I had bilateral hydronephrosis. It is a kidney blockage. I had it in both kidneys.

My mom and dad found out that 98% of babies who have it before they are born die before birth.

I spent time in Boston for it.

In December of 1987 (mom helped me with the dates of what happened), I got really sick with what turned out to be the start of asthma. In the emergency room, they didn’t think I would make it.

The red crash cart by me made mommy cry.

I got through that and ended up in the hospital a few more times. I had chicken pox and pneumonia before I was 6 months old.

When I turned one, mom and dad took a deep breath and said, “Yeah!!”

Then, the doctor noticed I was behind on doing baby stuff and I got extra help.  They didn’t think I would walk or talk. I’m stubborn, so I did both. I walked around 2 years old.

Talking was really hard and took me longer. I started to talk around 4. Mom said it was only a word here and there. After 6, I got better at talking.

School was ok at first. I could tell a lot of stories about what happened. Schools didn’t deal with bullying then like they do now.  The R word was used a lot when I was around. Every time I talked in class, the kids laughed at me. The teacher let them. When mom would talk to them about it, they said, “What do you want us to do? No one understands her.”

I worked hard at talking.

Around this time, I got my diagnosis of apraxia and sensory problems. Neither were understood back then. I am on the older end of the diagnosis, which means I was among the first in the USA to get this diagnosis. Things are more understood now. They are lucky that it is.

The town leagues of soccer and basketball got hard. I couldn’t keep up.

Mom decided to try Special Olympics so I would have something to do. It was good for me.

I found in Special Olympics that I have a voice! I have a lot to say and people in Special Olympics listened. No one ever thought I was stupid because I talked different. I never thought I would feel that way. I mattered.

One time, I spoke at the same event and the governor told me that I was a better speaker than he was.

I’m older now and talking is still a challenge and always will be but…

I have a voice that is worth listening to. I never thought it would happen!