The lives of champion UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and speech pathologist and mom Laura Smith might seem worlds apart, but the two women share a unique connection.
Smith and her 5-year-old daughter, Ashlynn, met Rousey, 28, this spring at a book signing in Denver, Colorado, for Rousey's autobiography, "My Fight/Your Fight."
Smith told ABC News she was on a mission to meet Rousey in order to find out if the speech disorder she had as a child was the same condition that affected her daughter, Ashlynn, has.
“I read probably everything she’s ever said about her speech impediment and the more I read I was like, ‘That was apraxia. This is apraxia,’” Smith recalled.
Childhood apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder where the brain has problems coordinating with the body parts –- like lips, jaw and tongue -– needed for speech, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.
“At first I was tested for deafness,” Rousey said of her own childhood struggle. “They thought maybe my pronunciation was off because I was hearing things differently.”
“But it was really I had all these words perfectly arranged in my head, it’s just when they tried to come out of my mouth they sounded different,” she said. “It was kind of like there was a divide between my brain and my mouth.”
Because apraxia was not a common diagnosis when Rousey was a child, no one suspected it was what was behind the fighter’s speech problems. That is, until Smith gave Rousey a brochure on apraxia at the book signing.
“I threw the brochure and the bodyguards came in immediately to get it,” Smith said. “She [Rousey] picked it up and I was like, ‘If you did have it, would you say it in your interviews because it would mean so much for our kids.’”
Rousey says the information in the brochure struck her instantly.
“I actually ended up reading through the whole thing that night and was like, ‘Oh my God, this is all exactly it. This is exactly what it was,’” Rousey said. “I didn’t know it was actually apraxia until that moment.”
“She really taught me a lot about myself that day and I can’t thank her enough for it,” Rousey said of Smith.
To thank Smith and her daughter, Rousey sent a special message, doing exactly what Smith asked her to do at the book signing, talking about apraxia.
“Hi Laura and Ashlynn,” Rousey said in the taped message. “I just wanted to say I’m so happy to hear everything that you’re doing to raise awareness of apraxia.”
“You definitely raised awareness in me and I just wish you all the best,” she said. “I know our paths will cross again someday at some point so I can’t wait to see you again.”