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The Voice Inside

MyKey Core Belief #1

Every individual has a “voice” inside––waiting, wanting and ready to be heard, even if the act of voicing is uniquely different.

The bell is about to ring. The pressure begins to mount. Get through the lesson plan. Meet state testing requirements. Follow the IEP mandates. Attend those meetings. Finish grading. Answer the unanswered emails.

With the demands of daily life, we find ourselves gasping for breath to simply keep up.

And then, after school, there are chores to be done, appointments to make and sporting events to attend. The pace and demands that arise on a daily basis have made the idea of listening with intentionality increasingly incompatible for those who need to be heard the most.

Where is the time, the energy, the focus–and even more pressing–the tools we need to listen in a meaningful way?

First, we need to slow down if we are to listen effectively to people who have communicative differences. When a disability is added to the social equation, communication requires processing time and properly designed tools for support. Perhaps the most important tool? One’s ears and a commitment to put aside personal assumptions and imposed ideas.

There is a real temptation to fill in the silent gaps with one’s own words and thoughts, which ultimately leads to the continued practice of setting someone aside and devaluing a person in their own communicative process. It is not that our culture consciously allows this to happen–it’s that we tend to lose sight of the individual. When someone needs ample time and space to speak for themselves we need to make every effort to put the person first–distancing ourselves from the identified differences in social communication.

On any given day the average individual is bombarded by messages and noise. Instead of carving out moments for listening and resting, we seek out the next message on Facebook, email, Twitter, and instant messages. This habit keeps our focus in the palm of our hands, rather than on the individuals we are serving.

If we are willing to look up–to recognize the missed opportunities of that hidden voice–we will hear and see some beautiful things. We will all experience some great opportunities for connectedness without having to look for it elsewhere. It is right in front of us, in the same room: the eye-contact, the gestures, the subtle utterance, the touch, the hugs and the kiss on the cheek.

If we are engaged, we may even be able to better understand the intentional communication behind an uncomfortable verbal outburst. We also might understand the patterns of communication even in the high level of repetition. If we pause, and pursue, we may be able to unlock the inner voice that stands behind the struggle to articulate clearly.

My heart sinks when I see a person with a disability who is waiting and ready to be heard–they’ve processed the language and have the answer or the idea, but are forced to wait in silence for their support provider to finish their Facebook post, answer their email, or take their “selfie.” I understand that a large part of the social experience is oftentimes limited to the palm of our hand these days. But I have been in many situations where a person with a disability who may not have an iPhone in their hand or access to similar devices are shut out and set aside.

We all seek our own connectedness – to feel like we are a part of something bigger than the situation we are currently in.

But if our heads are down, staring at a device or wrapped up in our busyness, we will stumble over the barriers; we will deny ourselves the awareness needed to recognize the response. We don’t want to be isolated, forgotten or set aside ourselves. So we need to look up.

It may require noticing subtleties and listening with more time than we think we have. But if we look up and listen, we will definitely open ourselves up to a beautiful connectedness.

MyKey Thoughts from the Classroom: Some of the most incredible experiences I have had recently in the classroom is working with a student who is an emergent reader/writer. Utilizing My Transition Portfolio with guiding prompts has allowed for rich language to be elicited when supported by speech-to-text applications and personalized tech tools.

Utilizing this Transition Portfolio development system in digital format has opened incredible doors to unlock self-determination, reading/writing instruction utilizing student’s own voice and broadening all communication abilities.

To find this valuable resource for your own classroom, check out My Transition Portfolio by Barb Blakeslee on Teachers Pay Teachers!

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