It takes a lot to fire me up and anger me to the point I lose sleep over a nasty remark or unsolicited comment about my parenting. But, when I received the below message regarding Spelling to Communicate (S2C), I threw my phone and screamed a few choice words in the air:
“As a parent of a minimally verbal, intellectually disabled, severely autistic 16-year-old daughter, I am deeply concerned with the rapid expansion of these programs (S2C / RPM), because (and this may be difficult to hear), I think the overwhelming evidence suggests that any communication coming from these programs are actually the person prompting the speaker (facilitator) and not the autistic person speaking. I think it is dangerous because it suppresses the real communication of our autistic children. When will we accept where they are and stop trying to make them what they aren’t?”
Trust me, I know there are many naysayers out there who share the beliefs of this individual that spelling or typing isn’t really demonstrating the true thoughts or abilities of our children.
However, I know from 3 years of personal experience that those thoughts & opinions are ludicrous, but it’s not my goal or mission to change closed minds.
What truly upset me was the last sentence… “when will we accept where they are and stop trying to make them what they aren’t.”
As I lay in bed that night, unable to sleep, replaying that sentence over and over in my mind on a loop for what seemed like hours, I was suddenly overcome with peace.
My anger & irritation from a statement made by a random person was replaced with sadness for the 16-year-old child who is being underestimated by her parent.
You see, for the last 20 years, I’ve challenged every limitation and assumption professionals have placed on my nonverbal, autistic son, Skyler and have never stopped introducing him to new methods or experiences that give him every opportunity available to live his best life.
In other words, I PRESUME COMPETENCE.
Leave it to Skyler to insist that an exclamation point be added to the end of that sentence!
Last night during our spelling session, we were discussing the history of cherry blossoms and after spelling four words from the reading (perfectly and unassisted ) I asked him one final question. The answer would be from prior knowledge only – there was no mention of this word in the material.
I said, “Skyler, you may or may not know the answer to this question and it’s okay if you don’t since we’ve never discussed it. What is the name for someone who studies trees?”
I quietly & steadily held up his alphabet board and he swiftly directed his gaze and finger to the upper left corner.
One letter after another… A-R-B-O-R-I-S-T.
Yet again, his retention of words seen or heard and observation of the vast world around him is mind blowing and nothing short of amazing to me.
With every word Skyler spells, I beam with excitement and pride for both him and me.
You see, the email from that random stranger actually solidified for me that Skyler and I are a great team. If I had “accepted my son for where he was” (based on misperceptions) 3 years ago before S2C came into our lives, I would’ve cheated him out of ever sharing the brilliance that was locked inside.