Monday, 22 April 2013

#10 To Teach without Speech

Eight days ago I had the pleasure of seeing one of the greatest orators of our time, live at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. She is a role model, an educator, a mentor. She is genuine and funny, and her words and actions have impacted millions of people throughout the world over the past twenty-five plus years. Oprah Winfrey shared with us (her audience of over 14,000) her successes and failures and the life lessons she has learned from both.

"Follow your instinct. That's where true wisdom manifests itself."
Did I know what it would take to mother a newborn with feeding and airway issues; how to check the placement of, and then feed my son via, a nasogastric tube; how to suction a nasopharyngeal tube in order that his airway remain unobstructed? Did I know what to do when my son's speech did not develop; how to teach him to use sign language; how to get him started using a voice output device? Did I know what to do when his school situation went awry; how to get him the support he needed? Did I know what to do when I couldn't get him that support and it seemed there was no one to help us? The answer to each of these questions is, no. I followed my gut. I didn't know how any of it would turn out. My instinct was to educate myself as best as I could in order to move forward with the wisdom I acquired to do what (I thought) was best for Carter.

"Every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear."
When I get caught up in fearful thoughts about what the future holds for Carter I become overwhelmed and unproductive. So, I try to take things one day at a time and stay focused on my love for Carter and how he deserves the best that I can offer him in the present moment (how's that for Oprah lingo?). I want to be productive, not overwhelmed and I want Carter to feel my love, not my fear.

"Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment."
One of the best things I've done to help Carter is to educate myself. When I study information from every angle, from all available resources, I feel that I am learning and growing and creating a solid platform from which I can step forward, toward whatever comes our way.

"We all want to feel validated; that we've been heard."
This is the very reason why I fight so hard on behalf of my non-verbal son. Carter has so much to say; so much to offer to those around him. Communication is a basic human right in whatever form it takes. Everyone has the right to be heard.

"Turn up the volume on your life." is Oprah's message. 
I'll also be turning up the volume on Carter's talker, because he's got a lot to say and his message needs to be heard, too.

I went to Hamilton to hear Oprah speak about her life lessons, and I came away from her articulate presentation with the realization that I've experienced many of those lessons already - through Carter, without him ever having uttered a word.

He's no Oprah. He teaches without speech. But, my non-verbal son has taught me many  life lessons.

Life is speaking to you, are you listening? ~~Oprah Winfrey

Disclaimer: Views in the Not Being Able to Speak series are derived from my personal experience with Carter. I do not speak on behalf of others with complex communication needs. It is not my intent to minimize or disregard the power of expression that can be found through the use of augmentative and alternative forms of communication.


  1. Another brilliant inspirational writing! Claire

  2. wonderful blog!!! I have always thought my boys were the true teachers!!! be open and they have lots to share and teach!! <3

    1. Absolutely, Diana! There's no doubt about that.

  3. Beautiful post, Stacey. Wisdom can definitely be expressed and learned in so many ways. So happy for you that you got to see Oprah and for all of the 'Aha' moments in your life.

    1. Thank you, Ida Mae. I'm sorry you missed seeing Oprah. What an inspiration she is!