Insights, curiosity and understanding at Mabin School

We are 18 days away from our launch at Port Renfrew, on the west coast of Vancouver Island—this doesn’t seem real. Everything is coming together—and we have many motivated, generous, and creative people to thank.

On Friday, Kerr, Gail and I gave a presentation (with the assistance of Chantelle Walters, one of Kerr’s wonderful communication assistants) to the students at the Mabin School in Toronto. We wanted to give them an idea about how to communicate with someone who doesn’t have speech and to talk about how challenging it can be to get heard and included when speaking in alternative ways.

First, I’d like to thank the students. We were delighted by you—pleasantly surprised by your insights, curiosity—and your ability to understand the complexities of living without speech. Next, I’d like to thank the Mabin staff and parents—you’ve obviously done a phenomenal job.

Earlier in the day, before we gave our presentation, the students at Mabin had a silent recess. If they wanted to tell a friend something, they had to use gestures, letter boards, or pen and paper. This experience helped them understand how frustrating it could be to not use their voices. We discussed how we feel when people ignore us or interrupt when we try to speak. We talked about how often incorrect and unfair assumptions are made about someone’s intelligence if he or she doesn’t have speech. Everyone tried communicating with blinks (like Kerr does).

The students were loaded with questions (some quite brilliant), and Kerr answered them with his blinks. For those of you reading this blog who don’t know Kerr, he blinks for “yes”. If he doesn’t blink, we ask him if his answer is “no”, and if it is, he blinks. He also has a speech generating device, but in many situations it’s slow in comparison to using yes/no questions and blinks. Kerr probably explains his communication better than I do—if you’re interested, you can read his story on our website (http://kilometresforcommunication.com/stories/kerr-wattie) to learn more.

There are many things we take for granted on a daily basis—what about our ability to tell a joke? Gail told the story at Mabin about when Kerr first got his communication device, and she was giving him a glass of water one day. A sly grin came to his face. He was on the food page on his communication device; he hit his switch, and said “It’s too spicy”.

Gail and I are less than a week away from driving out west. I’m still training, but it’s been difficult finding the time in the last week. A number of Kilometres for Communication events are being planned. We’ll keep you posted!

Skye Wattie

Website: http://kilometresforcommunication.com
Facebook: Kilometres for Communication
Twitter: km4communicat

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2 thoughts on “Insights, curiosity and understanding at Mabin School

  1. What a great opportunity to educate! I love the exercise as a way to sensitize people to what it is like to need to communicate in ways other than use of the spoken word.

    • More great AAC Awareness Activities are posted at http://www.tvcc.on.ca/augmentative-communication-service-7.htm

      AAC Awareness Activities: The Augmentative Communication Service at Thames Valley Children’s Centre has organized and hosted two events to celebrate AAC Awareness Month (October). “Talking With Our Mouths Full” (TWOMF) is a lunch session during which people are required to use AAC (augmentative & alternative communication) methods exclusively. Quiet Coffee (QC) is a coffee session based on the same ideas. Resources for you to host one of these events are available here. Please feel free to customize the materials as needed.

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