Born to Make a Difference | Marie-Soleil Labelle

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Race car driver Marie-Soleil Labelle races to raise awareness of DLD/TDL as RADLD’s first official Spokesperson

Quebec (CA) Race car driver and bilingual French-English speaker, Marie-Soleil Labelle is known affectionately as ‘Sunny’. RADLD is excited to announce that Sunny has joined us as our first official spokesperson. Sunny has Developmental Language Disorder and is eager to help others with DLD/TDL. We asked Sunny a few questions to help the RADLD community get to know our first official spokesperson. Please note the translation of DLD in French is TDL.

1. Sunny, when did you learn you had DLD/TDL?

“My sister finished my sentences and told me what to do; and at school too, my friends would do the same. In 8th grade, I talked about it with my doctor; saw a speech & language therapist and I was diagnosed with DLD/TDL.”

When Sunny first found out she had DLD/TDL she felt overwhelmed by the news.

“First, I started crying when my parents told me but after a few months, I accepted it. And I was able to say, well I have DLD/TDL without complaining or being sad.”

“I thought it was bad and I was different. Now I’m older and it’s not a big deal anymore. It’s just, it’s in me and I’m going to live with it.”

“For example, when I am explaining a story or sharing something with my mom and my sister, and sometimes they don’t really understand what I’m trying to say…when I was little, I would get mad. I didn’t want to talk any more. But now, I’m just laugh and try to explain it a better way.”

2. What was it like for you at school?

“School was ok, but in French it was really hard – in reading & grammar; in math I had trouble understanding the big problems; reading was a disaster, I’m not going to lie: when I had oral presentations, it wasn’t that bad because I practiced with my mom at home. Sometimes I would say words that were unrelated (e.g., instead of shutting down lights, it would be ‘deopen’ the light; I would say ‘the open door’).”

Strategies that helped Sunny at school included reading a book at home with her mom in the week before it would be used in class. If she just read a book for the first time in class, she wouldn’t understand even the basics of what she was reading. At home, her mom would go through the book with Sunny to help her understand. There was no resource to support Sunny at her public school.

Sunny excelled at Martial Arts where she was able to learn the moves through repeated physical demonstration: it wasn’t just verbal instruction. This learning through repetition was a strategy Sunny decided to apply in school too. She would record herself studying and listen to the recording on repeat. She wouldn’t go and play like the other kids, as she realized she had to work harder than her friends to get the grades.

Other things that helped Sunny at school included:

· seeing a speech and language therapist after school (paid) – to practice how to explain something if she forgot a word

· at school Sunny had a computer for writing and reading

· a friend helped Sunny in the evenings at home so she could understand her school work.

3. Can you tell us about your racing car journey? When did you start racing? What do you love most about it?

“I was doing go-karting when I was little at the indoor track, many times in a week. I met the staff and they let me stay and practice…like driving around cones, and doing some tricks. There was a league that asked me if I wanted to be in it.”

In 2018, Sunny started driving on the outside karting track before moving onto competitions.

“My coach was racing in the Nissan Micra Cup and I went, and we met people important to the series. We were in contact with them, and then that got me into the Nissan Micra Cup.”

Sunny quickly realised she could use her school coping strategies at the racetrack too! Repetition was key. To be a successful race car driver she needed quiet in her helmet, no talking, and to do many laps!

Sunny had to learn the rules and regulations, and complete Road Racing courses sanctioned by the Federation Internationale Automobile (FIA), to be allowed to race. At speed, the language is with flags. Sunny wouldn’t have progressed if she hadn’t studied hard and trained even harder. She was a little girl with a big dream in a male dominated sport, and then with DLD on top of that.

This young racing dynamo and RADLD’s first official Spokesperson, now hits speeds of up to 210km/hr in her Nissan race car! Sunny loves accelerating, speed and getting ready for the next big race weekend. She even has a simulator at home to help her practice.

“I’ve learned a lot of cool stuff on it. I’m trying to improve race starts, so you can practice on the simulator.”

4. What do you wish people understood about DLD/TDL?

“It’s not my fault, I’m trying to explain something. They need to be patient because sometimes when I’m talking they won’t necessarily understand. Sometimes my mom and sister and I can make a joke about DLD. It’s not going to stop me.”

5. What’s the hardest part of having DLD/TDL?

“Not being able to express myself…I wish I could just talk without any hesitation. If I’m having an interview in racing, I have difficulty talking, I feel like sometimes it’s hard.”

Sunny shared that instead of doing 7 or 8 takes, she’d like to say things once and be understood.

6. What’s the best parts of having DLD/TDL?

“In racing, now that everyone knows, I feel different and special!” Sunny shared this comment with a huge smile and sitting up proudly.

“Now that we’re in contact, meeting new people, people are nice to me now that I’m meeting about DLD. People treat me differently when they know I have DLD.”

7. What would you say to other young people who are just finding out they have DLD/TDL?

“Be proud of yourself, that’s who you are. It doesn’t matter if you have a difference, maybe it will be harder than for other people. You’re going to have to learn to live with it. It may take time to accept.”

8. What are your goals for the future?

Sunny has plans to become a Mechanical Engineer.

“My ultimate goal is to be Chief Engineer in Formula 1.”

Her other goals include racing as much as she can and to proudly represent RADLD this year. Sunny has a true desire to help others and RADLD could not be prouder to have Sunny as our first official RADLD Spokesperson in 2022.

You can read more about Sunny and follow her racing journey in the following ways:

One Response

  1. Teresa Black says:

    What a fabulous ambassador for DLD Sunny is.

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