Friday, January 16, 2015

A Boy Who Can (Not) Talk

At the first rehearsal for the Adaptive Dance program's spring variety show, Miss Debbie wanted to get an idea of how well the kids can sing.

Spoiler: they suck.

There's a special circle of Hell in which thousands of young children belt the Frozen soundtrack in an endless loop. I have caught a glimpse of this dismal place, and I have been inspired to try to lead a better life from now on.
My reaction watching this train wreck.
So, the kids are wailing along with Let It Go, having a glorious time. "John," a nonverbal 21-year-old young man with Down syndrome, is singing in a sort of open-mouth hum, his tune as recognizable as anything the other kids are generating. Ryan, rather than singing (although he certainly knows this song), is visually stimming on the other kids, looking from one child to the next in a side-eyed squint. He zooms in close on John's face. "That boy can not talk."

When Ryan has made this observation about John before, we have discussed that different people communicate in all sorts of ways, and that just because an individual doesn't use words it doesn't mean he doesn't have something to say. This time I chose to acknowledge that his observation was correct and then let it go, let it go.

What struck me this time was what Ryan's words reveal about how he thinks of himself. Ryan clearly identifies himself as "a boy who can talk," as opposed to John, "a boy who can not talk." Speech is like a light switch: on or off. On/off, Ryan can talk/John can not.

Other kids, though, would probably identify Ryan as "a boy who can not talk" - his command of grammar is awkward at best; his speech sounds more like what you'd expect from a three-year-old than from a fourth grader; and his conversation skills are rudimentary and unpredictable. On/off, we can all talk/Ryan can not talk.

Ryan's speech is on a dimmer switch, but I don't think he's aware of that subtlety.

Hell, I don't think any of these kids grasp the idea of subtlety. My ears will be bleeding for weeks...

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