Growing up with a hidden condition, Sophie Franks has always found communication difficult.
She has had to find strategies to cope with her speech and language problems and is now part of the RADLDcampaign, helping to raise awareness of the long-term condition developmental language disorder (DLD).
Sophie, 37, said: “I was diagnosed with DLD when I was young. I’ve had great support from my parents and specialist schooling and support, including from speech and language therapists, so I have been able to succeed in more than I would ever expect.”
Sophie, who lives in Goring, has even spoken to a group in the Houses of Parliament.
She explained that DLD does not just go away in adulthood and said many people do not understand the difficulties.
“It is always there in my life and something I have to find strategies to get by,” she said.
“I wish I could do things that other people could do, and take things in and remember things when told the first time.
“My friends are really supportive but I wish that people had more knowledge about DLD and there was more support. It’s a hidden condition and people need to know about it.”
Sophie grew up in Littlehampton and her speech and language problems were identified when she was three years old.
Parents Graham and Barbara Franks were first concerned when Sophie was about 18-months-old, as she was not making any of the usual pre-talking sounds.
Barbara said: “She’d sit and play happily and just look around her but didn’t babble at all.”
When they sought help with her understanding of words and speech, some people blamed them for not communicating with Sophie.
Graham said: “It was a hurtful accusation when Sophie was in a very nurturing, supportive family environment.
“We battled to have Sophie diagnosed with speech and language problems and for her to receive intensive speech and language therapy, as well as attend a specialist school.
“The support she had there made a dramatic difference to Sophie’s development, including her reading and writing skills.”
Sophie went on to train as an early years practitioner and now works at Kamelia Kids Day Nursery, supporting children with complex needs.
Barbara said: “We feel Sophie is doing exceptionally well now and far greater than we could have ever hoped for. She has a very good job and is well respected within her workplace.”
When Sophie first started her job, her managers were unaware of her condition but she has since had the confidence to share her story.
She said: “I love my job but sometimes I find it a little hard to follow instructions and understand what people have said to me.
“Sometimes in meetings, I lose concentration and then I miss things that have been said and don’t always understand.”
Sophie has ensured her colleagues understand how DLD affects her everyday life, including finding it hard to have the confidence to ask people to explain what they mean.
Having DLD can get her down and she sometimes struggles with anxiety and low self esteem. People have been supportive but she still worries they do not really understand the condition.
Sophie said: “This is so important to me, raising awareness of DLD. I’ve always grown up with DLD. It doesn’t just go away in adulthood.
“Thankfully, I’ve had lots of support from family, friends and professionals but sometimes everyday things can be a struggle, especially in the workplace, like understanding, processing and remembering information that is told to me.”
Following a five-year campaign, new terminology has been approved to end confusion in diagnosing the condition, which affects two children in every classroom. It can affect every aspect of communication, with lasting impact on emotional and educational development.
Visit naplic.org.uk for more information.