I’ve gone down a rabbit hole or three thousand, these past few weeks. It’s a rabbit hole anyone even remotely connected with disabilities NEEDS to pass through (like a rite of passage). And based on my wanderings….
… I’ve had a bit of an epiphany. I’ve discovered that disabled people (or people with disabilities , whatever floats your boat) grow up and become adults. Adults with opinions. Adults with valid opinions formed based on their experiences.
I’ve also discovered that disabled people are allowed to say no. They’re allowed to say that they don’t want to do some particular activity today. That they’re too tired for it. That they’re too overwrought or too bored of it. That they aren’t required to provide a reason every time, apart from ‘they just don’t want to.’
And that doesn’t mean they have to come out and say it in the language that we all insist on inflicting upon them. If they cry, they’re saying no. If they turn their heads away, they’re saying no. If they run away, they’re saying no. AND THAT COMMUNICATION OF NO IS JUST AS VALID AS SAYING THE WORD “NO”.
In any form of therapy, and ESPECIALLY speech-language therapy, it’s none of our business to “make” them do what we want.
We have no business holding down their hands without their permission. Even if it’s a two-year-old. So a two-year-old pinched you out of frustration. Most likely you didn’t listen the other twenty times he tried to let you know that he was uncomfortable and thus was going for violence. That’s communication. You pinching him back? That’s ABUSE. You holding down his hands and screaming “No pinching!” in his face? ABUSE.
Yes, I call it abuse. No, it’s not “for his own good.” No, your actions aren’t going to teach him not to pinch people. Instead, they’re going to teach him that he is powerless. That adults can do whatever they want to him and his attempts to communicate will go willfully unheard. That his body is not his own, and is instead some kind of marionette for adults to handle freely without his consent. Think especially about the long-term consequences of that one.
…and no, for God’s sake, your job is NOT to “make them talk.” Your job is NOT to “make” them use their AAC system. Your job is to empower them to communicate. You know as well as I do that communication is a two-way street. SO IF THEY’RE COMMUNICATING , IN WHATEVER FORM, THEN YOUR JOB IS TO LISTEN.
Listen to the children. Listen to the adults. Listen to them if they have “low IQ”. Listen to them if they have “high IQ”. Listen to them if they’re “engaging in stereotypical behaviors”. Listen to them if they’re “not cooperative”.
AND. Listen to them if they’re compliant. Listen to them if they do everything you tell them to without complaint. Listen to them if they don’t protest at all. Listen to them if they’re a little too “well-behaved”.