Sunday, 3 November 2013

Do We Really Believe Everyone Should Have a Voice?

I have been heavy of heart this week.  I visited a class where I could not find evidence of student communication for students who are our most vulnerable.  These students have complex disabilities and many are unable to speak.  They cannot say when they hurt, when they are bored, when they are frightened.  They have no means to explain some of their behaviours, especially those self-injurious behaviours that we ableists do not understand.  We watch and we wonder why a person would want to hurt himself but we do not delve deeper to find out the reason, we just think it should stop and we tell him that.  We tell him to quit doing that because we have told you many times not to.  

What are we thinking when we say that?  We are NOT thinking... We only see something that think is wrong.  

I read Carly's Voice last year and it changed my opinion about students without a "voice".  For so long this young lady could not communicate and sensory overload resulted in her injuring herself and yelling to get some response.  When it was discovered she could type, she definitely found her voice and could explain some of the things that she did.  For a brief experience having no voice, visit Carly's Cafe: 

I know I cannot sit back and watch our students leave our district with no voice or way of communication.  I am excited our team wants to make a plan to bring communication to the classroom.  I look forward to working together with these brilliant individuals to give each and every student in this classroom a voice.

Otherwise, we will be just like every person who thinks it is enough that we "allow" these students in school; that they have a place to "go" everyday but is that enough?  Absolutely not. These students deserve our very best work to give them a voice.  If we believe it, we need to follow through.

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