We have a dream… celebrating MLK weekend in Atlanta

In celebration of Martin Luther King Day, we are reposting this blog from MLK weekend in Atlanta 2 years ago!  Wow!  It is amazing to see how far along these fantastic spellers and self advocates have come since then! The fight for communication rights is stronger than ever! ~Elizabeth

I returned from my second workshop in Atlanta on Martin Luther King Day, January 19, 2015. What a great workshop – 9 funny, smart, hard-working and thoughtful kids, great parents eager to use…

Source: We have a dream… celebrating MLK weekend in Atlanta

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Stop making assumptions of Ignorance – TASH 2016

This year, four of Growing Kids’ nonspeaking or unreliably speaking clients presented at the TASH 2016 conference in St. Louis! Each of our students gave a TASH Talk (in the style of a TED Talk) and participated together for a panel discussion on inclusion. We will be sharing their presentations with you over the next few weeks. First up is Tom Pruyn! Only 8 minutes are allotted for the TASH Talks, so Tom typed the first part of his speech (below in regular font) before the conference and then Tom typed the conclusion (presented in bold) live.  Enjoy! ~Elizabeth

I am so delighted to be here today. I am 18 and I love music, cute girls, technology and having friends. I am also autistic and have poor motor control. I am able to talk more than most of my autistic friends but this is not my best asset. My real thoughts are best expressed when I type. Really most of what comes out of my mouth is nonsense.

I talk almost nonstop silliness. Songs, lines from cartoons, credits from movies, and the same things over and over. This is not what I want to say but is what I am good at saying because I have said it over and over. This is incredibly frustrating for me because I know that I sound ridiculous. I don’t want to be judged by the words spewing from my mouth but instead I want to be valued for my true capabilities and the words that I can write.

This might disturb some of you who thought that speech is the ultimate goal. For me, speech has been my downfall. My teachers and many others have assumed that my speech reflects my purposeful thinking. The truth is that my speech reflects the random trash going through my brain. What I spell is what I think. However, I have not been allowed to communicate this way in school so no one was able to ever see my real capabilities. This is why I am talking to you today so you can spread my desire to rethink what you believe about autistics.

*Note: This portion below was typed live at the TASH presentation. We had technical issues with the blue tooth keyboard at the conference.  You can see the typing on the screen in the video.  We have corrected the stuck or repeated letters here for readability.

This is my request to you. Stop thinking that speech is a reflection of intelligence. The ability to learn does not depend on speech. The ability to learn depends on being given a chance to learn. Don’t limit those chances to those who speak reliably. Please give me and my friends a chance to learn. Thank you for listening.

Creating Social and Communication Opportunities

We are often inspired by the creative strategies our families find to make education and communication on the letter boards interesting and meaningful. During a Skype consult, Jasmin explained how she created social and communication opportunities between her son, who spells to communicate, and her nephew. Jasmin graciously agreed to share her fantastic strategies as today’s guest blogger!

Guest blogger bio: Jasmin Dutton is one of our GKTC moms from Quebec, Canada. She has been an avid homeschooler to both her sons for the past 7 years. After months of attempting to teach her son to point on her own, Jasmin and Wyatt took off on the boards after observing a GKTC workshop in March 2016. Jasmin enjoys gardening, and the outdoors in all seasons. She likes to emphasize a love of nature, curiosity and social contribution in her teachings.

Beyond the Boards

What has always attracted me most to Growing Kids Therapy Center is the emphasis Elizabeth and her team places on community building and collaboration amongst their students. This is something I’ve always wanted for my son but due to so many challenges, have struggled to create.

This past summer I have been determined to make it happen. So I took everything I have learned from coaching my son on the boards and put it into helping him connect socially.

Tolerance – for socializing: not outside the house, zero with strangers, tricky with same aged peers, and requiring structure and support. So it would have to be at home, someone older and familiar and well planned. There was also no way Wyatt would tolerate being left alone with anyone. This was not going to be respite. I would have to be present and directing the engagement.  Luckily, my 17 year old nephew lives nearby so I got in touch with him and made arrangements for him to come by for an hour a week to “hang out” with Wyatt and me.

Skill Goal – the challenge here was socializing so it would be over the top to work simultaneously on learning new physical skills. We’ve stuck to familiar activities that Wyatt excels at, such as cooking and swimming and have participated in them as a team, with me coaching both guys in the activity and creating opportunity for them to work together.  I was able to model for my nephew how to interact with Wyatt

Cognitive Goal – having always homeschooled my son, conversation can get pretty stale around here. I wanted my nephew to bring in conversation that would expose Wyatt to what teens are up to; the music, hobbies, and interests. Conversations were started around where my nephew was going to college in the fall, what his course load looked like and what he had to accomplish to be accepted into his program.

Response Level – well, response level wasn’t something I had thought too much of in the beginning, hoping really, that Wyatt would just stick around, but it was something that developed organically over time.  During one occasion, I came up with an activity Wyatt and his cousin could do together.  I would ask his cousin questions regarding his interests, he would then write his answer in invisible ink and Wyatt would use a developer pen to reveal the answer (we have linked two cool options if you want to try this at home!). Wyatt was pretty enthusiastic about the activity and I asked if he wanted me to ask him questions as well, and he agreed. So I quickly ran to get his board and took turns asking the guys each a personal interest question, trying my darndest not to cry at what I was witnessing.

This has been such a huge success for Wyatt that I have recently hired another teen (still familiar but less so) to come by during the week, and am using the same goals with her as I do with my nephew. I still need to remain present and help guide the interactions but my son now has the opportunity to collaborate. This fall, I will definitely be planning out more ways to use the boards during their times together. The experience has given me a burst of confidence and motivation to look closely at the opportunities I want for my son, envision what that could look like for him and make it happen.

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Jasmin, thank you for sharing your fantastic ideas for developing new relationships for your son! For many of our kids, building in opportunities for peer communication requires creativity, I know so many families will benefit from these great strategies!

~Elizabeth and Jasmin

A Modern Day Christmas Carol

I have been working on a hefty RPM lesson on Charles Dickens with some of my clients this week.  From this lesson, a couple have written brilliant Dickens inspired satires which I will share soon.  In the spirit of the holidays, my friend Paul wrote a modern day version of Dickens’ Christmas Carol.  His story is so timely, on point and simply too good not to share!

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THE CHRISTMAS GHOSTS NEED TO VISIT THE LEADERS OF OUR WORLD.  THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST SHOW A WORLD THAT IS NOT TOXIC WITH POLLUTION.  THE WORLD WAS STILL ABUNDANT WITH NATURAL RESOURCES.  THE WORLD HAS NOT LEARNED SUFFICIENTLY FROM THE PAST.

ENTER THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT.  THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT PLUGS IN HIS IPAD AND RUNS A POWER POINT OF SLIDES SHOWING OUR CURRENT STATUS.  SYRIAN REFUGEES….CLICK….TERRORISM….CLICK….SCHOOL SHOOTINGS….CLICK.  HOW ARE WE TO MOVE FORWARD?

CHRISTMAS FUTURE MAKES AN APPEARANCE.  IN HIS HANDS HE HOLDS TWO CHOICES FOR OUR FUTURE WORLD.  IN ONE HAND IS A WORLD OF HATE, GREED, INTOLERANCE, AND WAR.  IN THE OTHER IS A WORLD WHERE RESOURCES ARE PROTECTED.  PEOPLE ARE VALUED.  TOLERANCE AND ACCEPTANCE ARE THE NORM AND LOVES REPLACES GREED.  CHOOSE WISELY.

Paul asks a great question, “how are we to move forward?”  His solution sums it up….”choose wisely”! Our world leaders and policy makers could learn a thing or two from our RPM students. Wishing you Christmas Ghost free dreams this season!
~Elizabeth & Paul

Learning from Each Other During the Holidays

Today marks the last day of Channukah.  To all who celebrate, Hanukkah Sameach! I had the opportunity to learn more about Channukah from one of my clients, Dustin. Dustin came in for our weekly session and I gave him a choice of lessons, which included a lesson on the traditions of Christmas.  Although Dustin and his family are Jewish, he chose to do the Christmas lesson. Dustin was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on Channukah with me so that I was able to learn too! Like Dustin, I think it is important to learn about the religions and cultures of the world.  Perhaps if we all learned more about each other’s religions, cultures, customs, abilities, and lives we might all contribute to create a more accepting world.

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Here are a few questions from our lesson and Dustin’s fantastic creative writing.  My questions are in italics and Dustin’s responses are in all caps.

How do you think Christmas and Channukah may be similar or different?
SIMILAR BECAUSE THEY ARE BOTH HAPPY CELEBRATIONS WITH FAMILIES. DIFFERENT BECAUSE THEY ARE FOR DIFFERENT RELIGIONS.

 

 

What are two theories behind Christmas gift giving?
EYES ON HISTORY WILL RECOGNIZE THE STORY OF SANTA IN THE STORY OF ST. NICHOLAS. I THINK WHAT MATTERS IS THE SPIRIT OF THE GIFT NOT THE GIFT.

Tell me about gift giving in Channukah.
THERE ARE EIGHT NIGHTS OF PRESENTS IN CHANNUKAH.  THEY ARE STRICTLY SYMBOLIC. IT IS NOT REALLY ABOUT THE PRESENTS LIKE CHRISTMAS.  YOU HAVE SO MUCH GIFT GIVING AND GETTING ON CHRISTMAS.

What are your thoughts on gift giving/getting?
THE REAL GIFTS ARE THE ONES YOU CAN’T WRAP. STUFF IS NOT A GIFT. STUFF IS NOT VERY PERSONAL. REAL GIFTS ARE YOUR FAMLIY AND FRIENDS.  REAL GIFTS ARE YOUR WORDS AND TIME TOGETHER. TIME SPENT WITH LOVED ONES IS THE CHRISTMAS GIFT I WISH FOR ALL.
Do you have more to add? ONLY THAT IT IS NOT IMPORTANT TO SHOW LOVE WITH GIFTS.

Let’s do a creative writing of your choice. A poem, story, anything…
I WOULD LIKE TO WRITE A LETTER TO SANTA. (This came as quite a surprise to his mom and me! We could not wait to hear what Dustin was going to tell us.

DEAR SANTA,
NOT SURE YOU GET MANY LETTERS FROM AUTISTIC JEWS.  HERE I AM ANYWAY.  I DON’T WANT TO MAKE ANY REQUESTS FOR STUFF.  I ONLY WANT TO ASK THAT YOU TAKE CARE OF MY FELLOW AUTISTICS.  THEY MIGHT BORE MANY PEOPLE BUT TRUST ME THEY HAVE THE BEST IMAGINATIONS.  TOO BAD YOU CAN’T WRAP UP EVERYTHING AUTISTICS NEED.  YOU CAN’T WRAP UP LOVE, MY FAMILY AND ACCEPTANCE.  YOU CAN’T PUT A BOW ON EDUCATION AND WORDS.  YOU DO A SUPER JOB SO DON’T FEEL BAD.
LOVE,
DUSTIN

Wow! Dustin’s message is on point for any holiday that you may be celebrating this season!  Wishing you a great joy for all holidays that you celebrate.
~Elizabeth and Dustin

Nonspeaking Youth Advocate at TASH Conference 2015

An international leader in disability advocacy, TASH is dedicated to equity, opportunity
and inclusion for all. They work to ensure everyone has an opportunity to learn, work and enjoy life amongst a diverse community of family, friends and colleagues. This December, in Portland, Oregon TASH celebrated 40 years of generating change within the disability community. Five students from Growing Kids Therapy Center attended to advocate for their desire for an inclusive education. Benjamin McGann, Emma Budway and Huan Vuong are RPM students from Arlington Virginia who flew out to Portland to present. They each gave a TASH Talk (a 10 minute talk in the style of a TED Talk) and presented on a 50 minute panel discussion along with GKTC’s Portland RPMers, Liam Paquin and Niko Boskovic. Huan was also an invited panelist on a panel titled Sound the Alarm: Addressing the Ongoing Crisis in Communication Services and Supports. Finally, Ben, Huan and Emma represented the short film they created, The Power of Words, in a poster session. In each and every session, the students were quite simply AMAZING! These five students were confident, insightful, witty and brilliant!  They had the audience hanging on their every letter as they used the letter boards to spell out their powerful messages of advocacy, inclusion and acceptance. Read on to hear what they had to say!

Huan, Elizabeth, Emma and Ben ready to take on their TASH Talks!

Huan, Elizabeth, Emma and Ben ready to take on their TASH Talks!

TASH Talks
Ben, Emma and Huan each gave a TASH Talk.  Each talk was limited to 10 minutes, since it takes a bit of time to spell, the students prepared an introduction ahead of time (in italics) and completed the remainder of their talk on the letter boards (in all caps).

Hello. My name is Benjamin McGann. My talk today is about advocacy and leadership. You might ask, what does this guy know about advocacy and leadership? Well, it turns out I am an expert in advocacy and leadership. My expertise comes from years of being left out. Left out of education. Left out of conversations. Left out of decisions. Left out of everything. Because I don’t talk, I have been presumed incompetent and worse insufficient to matter. This must stop. Stop thinking people with disabilities don’t matter. I am here to tell you that everyone matters. We must provide our  young people with opportunities. These opportunities exist through education. I can tell you I did not learn through school. I have acquired my knowledge through listening and thinking about everything I hear. I challenge you to listen to me and think about what I am telling you.

THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.  I AM IN MY LAST YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL.  I HAVE BEEN IN AUTISM CLASSROOMS ALL MY YEARS OF SCHOOL.  I HAVE NEVER BEEN INSTRUCTED BEYOND A SECOND GRADE LEVEL.  STOP TREATING AUTISTICS LIKE THEY CAN’T LEARN (video).  SPEECH IS NOT A SIGN OF INTELLIGENCE.  EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE EDUCATED.  THIS IS MY CHALLENGE TO YOU – FIND A WAY TO INCLUDE NONSPEAKING AUTISTICS.
Emma presents her TASH Talk before a packed room.

Emma presents her TASH Talk before a packed room.

Hi. My name is Emma Budway. I am happy to be hear and tell you my story. I will do the majority of my presentation on powerpoint because I have trouble controlling my body. It takes me a while to spell however spelling is the communication method I use best. I am able to express my thoughts and knowledge through RPM. My mouth is not reliable. Most of what I show with my body is ridiculously inappropriate or at best unreliable. So if you see or hear me do something stupid it is not me it is my body. Now that I have explained about the disconnect between my brain and body can you understand when I have been denied a meaningful education? I am sympathetic to teachers who had to deal with my outbursts but that does not mean that I should not have been shut away in special education. Kept away from normal classes and denied the chance to learn with peers. One thing I want you to know is there are so many out there like me. Nonspeaking autistics like me that want you to know how much they want to learn. I am asking on behalf of those who do not have a voice to hear our plea to teach us. Respect our brains as tough as it may be please accept our lack of motor control. Stop trying to make us like you. That is a losing proposition.

THANK YOU.  I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY.  I WANT TO TELL YOU THAT DESPITE MY MOUTH I AM SO EAGER TO LEARN.  TALKING IS NOT THE ONLY WAY.  I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY.  I WANT TO LEARN.  EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL LEARNERS.

Emma closed her presentation with a poem she wrote in July, 2015.

TELL ME NO MORE!
QUIET THEY SAY
ONLY WISH I COULD.
HANDS TO SELF
ONLY WISH THEY WOULD.
NOT TIME FOR SINGING
WHEN IS?
IT HURTS MY EARS
TELL ME ABOUT IT!

My name is Huan Vuong. I am eighteen years old. I live in Arlington, Virginia. I have been excluded from regular education my entire life. The reason is because I cannot control my body. This is a problem when no one will take into consideration my motor planning problems. My brain is mighty buy my body is weak. I can listen to and understand everything. However if you are asking me to show you what I know via speaking or writing or typing independently I can’t guarantee that my body will cooperate. How do you support kids like me in the classroom? Acceptance is the answer(video).

I VERY MUCH WANT THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE EXTENDED TO TYPICAL KIDS.  NOT HAVING RELIABLE SPEECH SHOULD NOT REMOVE MY RIGHT TO LEARN. I AM A CITIZEN, AN AMERICAN AND AN EAGER LEARNER.  I WANT THE SAME ACCESS TO EDUCATION AS EVERY OTHER PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT.  PLEASE STOP FOCUSING ON A CURE.  THE CURE IS ACCEPTANCE.  THE CURE IS MEANINGFUL EDUCATION.  THE CURE IS TO PRESUME COMPETENCE.  I KNOW THAT THIS REPRESENTS A NEW WAY OF THINKING BUT I HAVE FAITH IN YOU AND YOUR ABILITY TO LEARN NEW THINGS.  THANK YOU.

Huan’s invited speech for the panel, Sound the Alarm: Addressing the Ongoing Crisis in Communication Services and Supports.  The members of this panel invited Huan to join their presentation. The stated intention of this panel was:  “Current evidence suggests that many persons with significant support needs are not receiving the supports and services they require to communicate successfully across environments. In schools, individuals are being denied access to successful supports because they are not deemed “evidence based” while other individuals are denied access because they are required to demonstrate competence before given an opportunity to learn. In this session, panel members will review the existing evidence, describe existing legislation and guidance related to the crisis, and call participants to action in continuing 40 years of progressive leadership by joining a work group to address the crisis.”

GOOD MORNING (video). (crowd responds, “good morning!”). MY NAME IS HUAN VUONG.  I AM NONSPEAKING AND AUTISTIC.  I COMMUNICATE VIA SPELLING ON A LETTER BOARD.  MY SCHOOL DOES NOT ACCEPT MY METHOD OF COMMUNICATION.  I AM THEREFORE DENIED A MEANINGFUL EDUCATION.  MY ONGOING FIGHT WITH THE SCHOOL IS YIELDING NO RESULTS.  I AM CLEARLY CAPABLE OF LEARNING YET NO SCHOOL WILL TEACH ME.  THIS MUST STOP.  I AM NOT ALONE.  THERE ARE SO MANY LIKE ME WHO DO NOT SPEAK WHO ARE BEING ROBBED OF AN EDUCATION.  THIS IS AN ATROCITY THAT OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM MUST STOP. THANK YOU FOR LISTENING.

Emma, Niko, Huan, Ben and Liam present in a panel discussion, Voices of Exclusion: Nonspeaking Youth Advocate for Inclusive Education.

Would you like to welcome our audience?

Emma: HI EVERYONE
Niko: HELLO
Huan: HI THERE SO GLAD YOU ARE HERE
Ben: I AM DELIGHTED TO BE HERE
Liam: HI WELCOME TO PORTLAND

Can you address the difference between speech and understanding?

Emma: I CAN NOT SPEAK BUT I CAN THINK.
Niko: MY COMPREHENSION IS PERFECT.  I JUST CANT GET THE WORDS OUT OF MY MOUTH.
Huan: MY CONTROL OF MY BODY IS LIMITED.  HOWEVER I CAN THINK JUST FINE.
Ben: GETTING THE WORDS OUT OF MY MOUTH IS IMPOSSIBLE BUT THIS IS NOT A REFLECTION OF MY THINKING.
Liam: MY STUPID MOUTH BETRAYS ME. I AM SO MUCH SMARTER THAN I SHOW.


What can you tell our audience about your motor system?

Ben: MY MOTOR SYSTEM IS UNRELIABLE AT BEST. AT WORST MY MOTOR IS A DISASTER. I CANT CONTROL MY SELF AT TIMES. SO I VERY MUCH GET EMBARRASSED BY MY BODY.
Huan: I AGREE COMPLETELY WITH BEN! I HAVE MORE CONTROL OF MYSELF AT TIMES THEN FOR NO REASON I DON’T.
Niko: DITTO. I CANT SAY IT ANY BETTER.
Emma: SAME HERE.
Liam: I AGREE WITH MY LOVELY FRIENDS!

Liam, can you please explain the difference between the words that come out of your mouth versus what you spell on the letter boards?

L: WORDS LOVE TO TRICK ME.  THEY GIVE LIES TO MY THOUGHTS.

How does your lack of speech affect your education?
Emma: NO ONE TEACHES US BECAUSE WE DON’T SPEAK.
Niko: MY SCHOOL IS ALLOWING ME TO RPM. THIS HAS BEEN LIFE CHANGING.  I FINALLY AM GETTING AN EDUCATION.(Video)
Huan: LUCKY NIKO! THIS NEEDS TO BE THE NORM NOT THE EXCEPTION.
Ben: CANT AGREE MORE.  WHAT POSSIBLE HARM COULD COME FROM TEACHING US?
Emma: I AGREE WITH BEN.
Liam: SO WHAT ARE YOU IN THIS ROOM GOING TO DO TO CHANGE THINGS?

Do you have suggestions for educators? 
Liam: YES. START HAVING A LITTLE FAITH IN US!
Emma: TEACH US LIKE WE WANT TO LEARN.
Niko: I THINK YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE.  STOP DOUBTING AND START TEACHING.
Huan: HAVE FAITH IN OUR ABILITY TO LEARN.  UNDER THIS UNCOOPERATIVE BODY IS AN EAGER STUDENT.
Ben: GETTING TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS ABILITIES WILL ASTOUND YOU.  VERY SMART, HEARTS OF GOLD, AND WILLING TO GO TO ANY LENGTH TO LEARN.

Rapid fire!  Can you briefly tell us what you have to offer and inclusive classroom?  
Ben: MENTAL AGILITY
Huan: MY LEADERSHIP
Niko: MY FRIENDSHIP
Emma: HUMOR
Liam: REALLY GREAT DANCE MOVES

Last thoughts for our audience?
Emma: PLEASE OPEN YOUR MINDS
Niko: HAVE A NEW RESPECT FOR AUTISTICS
Huan: MAKE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR YOUR LEARNERS.
Ben: STOP EXCLUDING NONSPEAKING AUTISTICS.
Liam: RESPECT YOUR LEARNERS.  WE WILL NOT DISAPPOINT YOU.

It was a busy day of presentations but we were not done yet! Finally, we had a poster presentation on The Power of Words, a short film that Ben, Huan and Emma wrote, produced, starred in and premiered in the Summer of 2014 with two other RPMers, Paul Park and James Potthast.

Thank you to the members of TASH who were a supportive and attentive audience. Thank you to the families who supported their student’s desires to present at this conference. Most of all, thank you to Ben, Emma, Huan, Niko and Liam for your courage, your insights, your advocacy and your words.  We could not be more impressed and proud of you!

~Elizabeth, Ben, Emma, Huan, Niko and Liam

 

The Voice….A Halloween Tale

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.

Katerina, August 2015

Katerina, August 2015

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.

The Voice
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