Years ago, I taught a brilliant little 1st grade student in my general music classroom. She was born with no left hand. I knew she was musically gifted and I jumped at the opportunity to include her in my after-school piano studio. She quickly learned by ear, the scales and chords with her right hand, and with her left wrist, she pressed the bass note of each chord.
Her father told me that he used to tape his thumb and fingers together on his left hand, and go about his business for the day, in order to deepen his empathy for the life his daughter would have. I tried it to for an afternoon, and boy is it tricky.
That has always stuck with me, and now, with a severe case of pollen-induced laryngitis, I have another story that will undoubtedly stick with me the rest of my life.
Oh the irony! Last Sunday, just one week before our second-annual Autism Acceptance Event, (a film screening about 2 low-verbal autistic people who communicate through typing) my voice decided to make an escape like Houdini, leaving me with nothing but coughing fits and a sinus infection. Because of my devotion to practicing self-sustained living, I’ve been working outside in my vegetable garden for weeks. They say the East Coast has never seen pollen counts this high, so I guess this is my first year to experience what it’s like to get sucker-punched by seasonal allergies.
So last Monday, with congestion in full throttle and a whispering voice, I finished distributing the local flyers for our Wretches & Jabberers free movie night, in all our regular places – local special needs schools and workplaces, a library and some shops. I took my iPad with me and had some powerpoint slides ready to go if I needed it.
By Thursday, still no voice, I was starting to get frustrated and even depressed. Gosh how would I feel if I was always like this? I spend countless hours anyhow, musing on how my autistic students process and respond to spoken language, and how they communicate back in nonverbal ways. As far as brain food goes, this is certainly meat and potatoes.
I decided it was finally time to purchase the AAC app, Proloquo2Go, for the Musical Autist Academy iPad. I’d been hearing its praise for a couple years, but the thought of purchasing a $189 app (when most apps are just a couple bucks) made me hold off. Now I definitely had the motivation.
So tonight, with still absolutely no voice of my own, I’m going to introduce a documentary on nonverbal autistic people using assisted communication devices. And I will allow this little iconto do the speaking for me. Thank you iPad and thank you Proloquo2Go for the help. And thank you Lord for working all circumstances for good, even for as icky as I feel….for an ever-deepening nonverbal empathy.
For more on topics like this, we encourage you to read one of our favorite blogs, Autism and Emapthy.com.