One of the most rewarding things about working with nonspeaking clients is witnessing the process of students developing their “voice”. Each student has a different voice that emerges loud and clear through spelling their thoughts and ideas on the letter boards. Although this voice is not necessarily audible – it is distinct and powerful. It has been a great privilege to watch Katerina find her voice. I first met Katerina and her parents in November 2014 when they came the GKTC offices for an out of town visit. After those first sessions, Katerina and her parents returned home and began daily practice on the letter boards. In subsequent quarterly visits, Katerina’s skills grew by leaps and bounds as a result of diligent practice! Each visit, Katerina comes ready to take on new skills. She is now communicating on both the laminated boards and keyboard. Her voice grows stronger every day. During her last visit, Katerina expressed her desire to advocate for other autistics.
Last week, Katerina sent me an early Halloween treat – an original Halloween story that she wrote for a school assignment. She currently receives home bound educational services. Katerina has graciously allowed me to share her story with you.
by Katerina Gogal
Once upon a time there lived a girl named Katerina. She was very beautiful and so sad, no one could communicate with her because she had no speech. Katerina’s voice was trapped inside her head. She was brilliant but everyone treated her like she was stupid. Not having speech was harmful, she was perceived as not having any language, oh how wrong they all were. Language and speech are not the same! Katerina developed such anger, so many insensitive cruel people said such horrible things about the girl in front of her, thinking she did not understand. People who were suppose to educate the girl did not believe she had any potential. Such a sad life the girl had and oh how lonely. Imagine a world where you have no one but yourself to connect with, how many people could survive? Katerina did. Katerina learned to communicate her thoughts through RPM. Some people still doubted her, fools.
RPM gave Katerina the strength and drive to find a voice. She yearned to find a way to show the world how smart she was. She needed speech to show them. On Halloween night, Katerina woke up with a brilliant plan, she was going to make a magic potion that would allow all the words in her head to spill out of her mouth. She jumped out of bed, lite a candle for some light and scrambled around her bedroom frantically for her book on magic potions. Where did she last see it? Yes, under her bed! Katerina pulled out the book and turned to the drink some speech potion page.
Katerina carefully read the directions, this recipe looked yummy. She quietly went downstairs and gathered her ingredients, sugar, water, fresh lemons and food coloring. She ran up to her room, mixed the ingredients together while saying the magic words ” talk! speech, turn on” , she said the magic words in her head three times and then gulped down the drink that looked like pink lemonade and smelled like sour lemons. The potion was wet and smooth and even more delicious then Katerina could ever imagine. Puffs of steam came out of her mouth and ears. Did it work? Katerina was not sure at first but then all of a sudden she felt different. Katerina opened her mouth and out spilled such beautiful words! Ecstatic to hear speech come out of her mouth, Katerina frantically began labeling everything in her room. She was so excited and wanted her parents to hear her speech too.
Her parents were in a deep sleep, she gently nudged her mom and waited for her mom to wake up. When mom woke up, she looked at Katerina and asked “what’s wrong Katerina?” Katerina smiled and said “nothing is wrong mom, things couldn’t be better!” Mom jumped out of bed and turned on the lights. She hugged Katerina and burst into tears. Dad woke up and said “what is going on?” Katerina began talking and now dad was speechless. The world seemed perfect and no one doubted Katerina’s intellect.
Katerina made it her life’s mission to give voices to all non speaking kids, she never wanted any child to be treated as cruelly as she had been. Non speaking kids are underestimated by the world! Going to bed that night Katerina realized advocating for non speaking kids was necessary and could be accomplished with speech, a letterboard or a keyboard. To say speech is better then a letterboard is wrong, a letterboard is a voice! Katerina undid her potion, she realized she loved herself the way she was. It was not her that needed to change, people need to accept and learn RPM and teach non speaking kids like they do regular kids. Now is the time for change, watch out world Katerina has found her voice!” KG
Look out world indeed! Katerina is currently using her voice in self advocacy efforts asking to be included in regular education, in school, with her peers. Thank you to Katerina and her parents for sharing this story. Your message is loud and clear and we are listening!
~Elizabeth and Katerina