Not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say!
She has been exposed to the fantastic field of Assistive Technology since she was in first grade. I exposed Courtney to various tools and dragged her along whenever I could. Courtney sometimes struggled along the way during her education, but she never gave up and she has always prevailed. I am so proud of her and can't wait until next July when she will finish graduate school and become an SLP! In the field of education and especially in Speech-Language Pathology we are always talking about communication and how communication is key. But often as educators and therapists we find it difficult to communicate with non-verbal or quiet individuals. Why is that?
When working with individuals over the past year I have often stopped to think about this question. When trying to think about ideas for what to do with these individuals, I would think about what I wanted them to say or communicate. However, communication doesn’t work that way. These individuals have independent thoughts and ideas, just like all of us. We ask them countless questions like do you want this or that or need something. But often we don’t step back and think what would they want to say. Our independent thoughts, ideas, and interests drive what we want to communicate about.
Recently, in working with a non-verbal individual I learned that they had a love for all things that play music and songs. This love for music allowed me to find something that they might want to communicate about. So, instead of asking this individual to say what I wanted them to say, I used their love for music to encourage communication. The same concept can be applied to almost any student or client that we can interact with. I think we should spend less time focusing on what we want them to say or communicate with us, and instead, focus on finding what their interests are or what they might want to communicate to us about. I end with this quote because it is what drives many of my passions as a future SLP. “Not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say.”
Thank you for writing this article. It touched a special part of my heart. Our daughter, Casey who is now 26, is still nonverbal. She was diagnosed with autism just before age three. When I say nonverbal, I mean that she will not speak words or sentences most of the time. There are times, however, when she will express a full sentence in context as clear as a bell. These times are not once in a while, but rather once year at best. They tend to happen in moments of sincere frustration or in moments of emotional expression. We would regularly remind those who worked with Casey that she could hear very well and understand what others said to her or about her. For some unknown reason, some tended to act as though she could not hear and this frustrated Casey to no end. One example of her expressing herself was that at a PTA gathering when certain staff members were being introduced and people were applauding; Casey grabbed my hands to make sure that I did not applaud for that person. I do have one prompt that will always get her to speak. If I say "Bibity-bobity", she will say "Boo"! She is my princess.