It goes without saying that Ronda Rousey is not only an absolute badass, but a total sweetheart to boot. She might be the best female fighter in the world, but she always takes the time to make sure her fans feel heard and appreciated.
In her book, My Fight / Your Fight, which was released a few months ago, Rousey discusses the struggles that she faced learning to speak as a child. Although speech comes naturally to most children, Ronda was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, which left lasting effects of brain damage. Until the age of six, she was unable to speak more than vague mumblings.
Despite being highly intelligent, Ronda Rousey grew up believing she wasn't. In My Fight / Your Fight, Ronda compared herself constantly to her sisters, both of whom were advanced for their ages:
‘I’m dumb, Mom,’ she once said. ‘Maria and Jennifer have the words. I don’t have the words.’ ‘No, you’re not, you’re very smart,’ her mother told her.
Instead of dwelling on her setbacks, Ronda's father simply deemed her what he called a "sleeper" and had faith that her intellect, talents, and natural athleticism meant she wouldn't let her speech impediment hold her back. Today we can say with absolute certainty that this was the case.
Laura Smith, a speech/language pathologist, mother of two and writer for The Mighty, heard about Ronda Rousey's story and saw parallels between her speech impediment and Apraxia (a motor disorder stemming from brain damage), which her eldest daughter is diagnosed with.
Upon hearing Rousey would be attending a book signing in her area in May, Smith was able to snag tickets at the last minute in the hopes that she would be able to talk to the Judo and MMA champion about her struggles with speech as a child. In doing so, Smith was looking to help put a face to Apraxia, which is too often overlooked or misunderstood.
With her daughter Ashlynn and a pamphlet on Apraxia Awareness in tow, the two stood in line patiently waiting their turn to meet with the lovely Ronda Rousey. Since it was a packed event, Smith notes that many people were hustled through the line to getting their books signed without getting to speak with Rousey at all.
But Smith was up to the challenge. She had Ashlynn approach Rousey and explained that her daughter also has a neurological speech disorder. Mustering up her courage to what could be interpreted as a somewhat invasive question, she took her chance while she had it and asked Ronda about Apraxia. In her The Mighty article, Laura Smith documents their conversation:
“Did you have apraxia?”
Ronda stopped signing, looked me in the eye and said, “What did you just say?”
“Uh, uh, apraxia? Dyspraxia? Was that your speech impediment?”
She looked incredulous and repeated, “Apraxia, yes, this is what they think I had.”
Ronda Rousey's interest was piqued by Laura and Ashlynn they began to discuss what little is known and Apraxia and how it affected her life as a child.
Ronda then briefly discussed the trouble in diagnosing her speech impediment as a child. She told Smith:
"You know, my mom is a PhD psychologist, and she had never heard of it. She took me to the universities and many of them had never heard of it.
They wanted to put me in a special classroom away from my friends. They thought I was stupid! But by fourth grade I was top of my class in algebra, and by high school I tested gifted."
Smith then asked if Ronda could possibly speak out on Apraxia Awareness and handed her the pamphlet she had brought, she reportedly replied:
"I will. I really will."
Rousey later posted an image of the Apraxia Awareness pamphlet to her Facebook page.
Along with being a total badass and all-around lovely person, Rousey also seems to be a woman of her word. After overcoming the numerous struggles thrown her way, Ronda Rousey not only acts a role model, but also uses her platform to act as a voice for those who can't speak up for themselves.
To read the rest of Laura Smith's experience meeting Ronda Rousey, please check out her fantastic article on The Mighty.
We'll soon see more of Ronda Rousey in the remake of the 1989 action movie, Road House, Mile 22 with Mark Wahlberg, and an untitled biopic of her own life based on her book My Fight / Your Fight. Of course, her film work will be scheduled so as to not interfere with her fighting.