Tuesday, 30 April 2013

#12 Communication Breakdowns

Anybody remember the Seinfeld episode with the low talker? You know, the one where Jerry wears the puffy shirt?

Take a look: Kramer and his soft-spoken friend, Leslie start a new line of
clothing and Jerry accidentally agrees to wear it on  the Today show.

This episode, that features Kramer's low talker girlfriend, is the perfect example of a communication breakdown. When you're not able to convey a message, or when your message is unclear or misunderstood, it may result in embarrassment, or worse yet; frustration and limitation.

I sometimes feel I could write my own Seinfeld episode based on how people interact with Carter. When he uses his talker, quite often people can't hear what he's saying. They lean in, eyes squinted, noses scrunched, muttering, 'What'd he say?' or 'What was that, Carter?'; and by the time he gets around to repeating it, the conversation has carried on without him. Unless he is in a quiet location with very little noise, it's a real challenge for his talker to be heard. There's a fine line between having the volume at a level so that he can be heard and having it at a level where it becomes uncomfortably loud; like a failed microphone test where the crowd is deafened before the concert has even started. 

On occasion, I find myself leaning in when Carter is using his talker, and if I can't make out what he's saying, I end up reading the words on his talker screen. Interacting with Carter can be somewhat of a communication comedy of errors.

Seinfeld fans know that the sit com capitalized on observational comedy to draw laughs. It frequently exaggerated attributes and/or mannerisms of characters, making the show both relatable and memorable (who doesn't remember the episode where Jerry was dating a woman with man handsor the one where George was accused of double dipping?). 

My Seinfeld episode would be about a no talker and it would enlighten people about the challenges faced by those who communicate differently. While I wouldn't want the world to be laughing at people with complex communication needs, perhaps portraying their challenges in a humorous light might make those challenges more memorable. Perhaps it might create some awareness around the issues that AAC users face when trying to function in a society that is shaped so heavily by the spoken word.

(to be continued)

What are some communication breakdowns you've experienced?

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.

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