CHAPTER 1: THE POWER of COMMUNICATION
… all human efforts to communicate – even in the same language – are equally utopian,
equally luminous with value, and equally worth the doing.
~ Ortega y Gasset ~
Communication is vital to being fully involved in life and connecting with others. Without a means of communication, how can children achieve their own, unique potential or teens and adults control their own life and have an opportunity to express their choices or own opinions. From Barry and Matt’s eye communications to Cameron’s sophisticated communication equipment, the right tools will enrich their lives. For children with autism spectrum disorder, communication goes beyond expressing opinions or choices. It’s a tool for connecting with others.
CHAPTER 2: MISBEHAVIOUR or MIS-COMMUNICATION
It always makes a difference to ask ourselves,
“Why is this happening? what’s causing this behaviour?”
Look at behaviour in relation to the ability to communicate and the factors that influence behaviour. Meltdowns can be caused by a lack of clear communication, being unable to meet our expectations, the inability to cope input, or the effects of puberty. Be proactive – use communication systems, social stories, sensory breaks. Nina struck out at anyone near her if she was angry or had a drop seizure. Just teaching her to use sign language for “go away”, lessened the aggressive behaviour. For Terry, who could communicate, the cause of his meltdown was miscommunication between the adults who supported him. In The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder (Kranowitz, 1998) the author noted, ‘The inability to function smoothly isn’t because the child won’t, but because he can’t.’
CHAPTER 3: SENSORY & COGINITIVE PROCESSING
What makes a child gifted and talented may not always be good grades in school,
but a different way of looking at the world and learning.
~ Chuck Grassley ~
Part of functioning in our busy world is having the ability to process or understand the myriad of input that constantly bombards us. How a person processes information and sensory input affects their ability to communicate and interact. A busy environment can be overwhelming for children with sensory sensitivities. Too much information can confuse students with autism. Children with autism or diverse abilities have subtle and complex cognitive processing. Yet, diverse sensory and cognitive processing are powerful tools. I have often seen the quote, ‘I have autism. What’s your superpower?’ Every child I have met has given me insight into myself and life. Now that’s a superpower. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. So, let’s value the strengths in diverse abilities.
CHAPTER 4: EMPOWERED or POWERLESS
If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay that way,
but if you treat him as if he were what he could be,
he will become what he could be.
~ Goethe ~
One on-line dictionary notes, ‘When you educate children and believe in them, you empower those kids to go after their dreams.’ Powerless, on the other hand, is related to being a victim, being unable to control or influence events in our life. Communication systems help them express themselves and act. When Matt was asked what was wrong and couldn’t answer without his picture symbols, he felt powerless. With his symbols or voice output device, he could interact with others – including bossing me around. From typical abilities to complex disorders, all children can be empowered and succeed.
CHAPTER 5: INTEGRATION, INLCUSION, & INVOLVEMENT
Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance. ®
~ Vernã Meyers ~
… And interaction is dancing. Having the opportunity to participate in life is fundamental for adults or children. But being included isn’t enough. There is a difference between inclusion and interaction. Interaction allows a two-way flow of information through communicating, reacting and influencing each other. Interaction brings us friendship, a sense of belonging and the opportunity to interact with and contribute to the world around them is essential. We make a difference by advocating for active participation and facilitating and empowering children to communicate.
CHAPTER 6: EDUCATION & ENRICHMENT
Knowledge, like air, is vital to life.
Like air, no one should be denied.
~ Alan Moore ~
All children have the right to learn and enrich their lives. They are active learners and need to explore the environment and be stimulated. When students have the tools to express themselves, they can succeed. Education and enrichment mean more than having new experiences. They are about connecting with others and taking part in life. With the ability to communicate, children can show us how far they can go and how much they can share. Sam had no verbal skills but he could participate in science fairs using his Tech Talk. Brady had autism and with support he was successful at university.
CHAPTER 7: OUR ROLES & EXPECTATIONS
Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress;
Working together is success.
~ Henry Ford ~
The importance of communication flows throughout this book. It relates to children being able to express themselves and how we interact with them and each other. We need to know that behaviour is intertwined with communication, integration and involvement require the ability to express ourselves, and being able to communicate is empowering. Who we are makes a difference in how we communicate, understand, connect and interact with others. Discovering our own personality traits will help us become more attuned with our clients and our co-workers. We don’t work alone. We all contribute to our clients or children’s lives and learning.
CHAPTER 8: FINAL THOUGHTS
Open the world of possibilities so every child can learn, grow and connect.
Helen Keller, Temple Grandin, and Daniel Tammet are extraordinary people who have had remarkable lives. They have shown the world that they can’t be held back. We learn so much from their lives. Communication and education are more than just enrichment. For the person with diverse abilities, they provide a road to discovering their own identity. Don’t sit back and entertain without interacting and stimulating our clients. Give them an enriched life. Give them their identity. Give them a voice.
The capacity for wonder and gratitude, a sense of aliveness and joy –
here is a priceless legacy, yet one within the means of every
parent and worker to bestow on his children.
The Night The Stars Fell
~ Arthur Gordon ~