leo in bloom magazine


How it feels to support those first words

Dear Friends,

I am so pleased to share these thoughts from Jonathan (Johnny) Perez, the lead S2C (Spelling to Communicate) practitioner at Transcending Apraxia! He works with me on my autonomous typing skills, and is such a positive and all-around cool guy! I want to share the significance of communication not only from the perspective of Spellers, but also from those who love them and work with them. Johnny is a true friend to the Spellers he works with, and I am so happy to know him. We squeezed in this chat before he went to pick up a tasty In-N-Out lunch for his friend, and a fellow Speller, Evan.

Your Friend,



D: So Johnny, why did you become a CRP and practitioner?

J: I have to say my biggest inspiration was probably Evan [another Speller for whom Johnny started as a support person] – I was doing a bit of behavioral therapy work and I was just doing it to pass time, really, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to go back to grad school to become a speech therapist, so my goals were already kind of with language in general. But after I met Evan, I just fell in love with Spelling to Communicate (S2C).

It opened my eyes to how many people really needed a voice, and I didn’t realize how few practitioners were available. I think at the time there were like a couple of dozen in the world – I was one of the earlier cohorts. I think I’ve always had a knack for wanting to help people, and I realized S2C was the perfect combination of speech, language, and helping.

D: So cool! How do you feel when you see someone spell for the first time?

J: I mean, I think there a lot of emotions. One of the biggest ones is excitement for the opportunities that I know that Speller is going to have. A lot of times when I’m working with little guys, I don’t know if they totally grasp how powerful it will be in the future to have a voice.

But for a lot of the older Spellers that I work with – like 14 years and up – I think they really understand the value. So, when we’re able to make that connection and they’re able to get on the boards and get nice and accurate and clean, I get a sense of rejuvenation, like I’ve been able to help one person get closer to their goals. So, there is a lot of excitement and planning – what can we do next, what future steps can we take, and how can I make it as easy as possible for this person to communicate. A lot of it is just excitement!

D: I love that so much! And how about the families? How do you think they feel in those moments?

J: You know, it’s so interesting, because I’ve been able to work with a lot families recently. I think they probably feel a whirlwind of emotions. A lot of times, the biggest emotion that I see, besides just being happy for their Speller, is oftentimes regret or maybe even guilt for how they communicated with their Speller before.

Which I think is actually amazing – I’m so appreciative of families who are willing to be so vulnerable and let us know just how different their lives were before the letterboards. Because a lot of times, as soon as those moments happen, everybody in their family – not just the person who witnessed them on the letterboard – everybody changes how they think about that person, how they communicate with that person, honestly just how they respect that person. It goes from, what I hear, a lot of babying and a lot of assistance to “hey, you can do this, and I know you can do this, and I’m going to do whatever I can to help you do this.”

So, I think in the best ways, this guilt and regret can change into something that is so much more positive. And also you see a lot of momentum – the family rallies behind the Speller, “hey, this is something new, this is something we’re going to accomplish,” it’s another task for them to achieve. I think they feel extremely hopeful and proud. I think they feel really proud of their Speller.

D: Wow, Johnny. That is an amazing answer!

J: Thanks, Danny!

D: That is all for now. And thank you so so much!

J: Of course, thank you Danny! I’m flattered you wanted to interview me, so thank you.

D: Of course! Now go get In-N-Out!

J: If you insist!

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We welcome submissions from nonspeakers and will consider submissions from speaking allies. Our issues come out every 2-3 months; the next issue will be on TRAVEL for July 2023. Please feel free to contact us here to pitch a submission!

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