My name is Lydia Dawley. I’m from Decorah, Iowa. Recently I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater. I’m the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Click. Speak. Connect. I have had cerebral palsy since birth when I was born with my umbilical cord around my neck two times and had to be resuscitated. I have mixed type cerebral palsy, which means I have two different types: I have spastic cerebral palsy which makes my muscles very tight and hard for me to stretch out my arms, legs and fingers. The other type I have is athetoid cerebral palsy which is uncontrolled movements. So when I go to push a button my hand will jerk in different directions and it will take me several attempts sometimes to hit my target. So that can make using an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device physically hard.
I started Click. Speak. Connect because I want to change the way speech – language pathology is practiced today. I want it to be about the AAC user and opening doors for them and giving them options of using a device, their own verbal language no matter how limited, hand made speech boards and even spelling words in the air with their hand or fist. I want to help AAC users to feel free and engaged in their own communication.
Truthfully I didn’t know what it would be like to have my own business. Yet alone see clients that use AAC devices because I have been told that kids would not sit and wait for me to type. But I proved them wrong!!
Starting a business has some challenges and a lot of rewards. We have challenges just like other businesses have such as financial and getting more clients. I have learnt how to balance professionalism and the disappointment I feel when people don’t see me as a CEO. I feel like I’m constantly training people how to have patience when dealing with someone who uses AAC. It gets tiring and frustrating having people talk over you and not allowing you time to speak. By now at the age of 24, I got used to having people not waiting for me. When I started Click. Speak. Connect, I thought it would somehow magically people would see me professionally, but that isn’t always the case.
Emails are pretty fun! When I get emails from other companies, I can tell if they did their homework or not because they ask to Zoom instead of call. Unfortunately phone conversations don’t work for me as my iPad isn’t loud enough or my phone cuts in or out that it’s hard to understand, and my communication partner doesn’t know when I’m typing. I feel like it’s an imposition when I ask people to Zoom instead of call, but now it helps me see who I’ll be potentially working with. It is difficult for some people to have patience while I type responses or questions and they tend to talk to others in the group who don’t use AAC and that makes me feel like they don’t want to hear from me.
There’s not a lot of AAC users who are CEOs of companies which I hope there is more in the future! There shouldn’t be any stereotypes about what CEOs should look like, it’s all about the passion for their product and helping others. I post a lot of videos and pictures on Click. Speak. Connect. social media sites because I want to show people that I can be a leader, a CEO, and do all of these things, there is nothing that their client, child, or themselves can do!