Saturday, 4 May 2013

#13 Overlooking Oblivious Orators

My last post was about communication breakdowns. I included a clip from a Seinfeld episode - the one with Kramer's low talker girlfriend - and I mentioned that when it comes to Carter's interactions with others, I could write my own Seinfeld-like sketch.

Before I introduce the cast of characters for my sketch, take at look at this oblivious orator in yet another Seinfeld clip:

I think we can all agree that speaking with a close talker would be awkward. It can't be easy to respond to someone who blatantly invades your personal space. There are certain unwritten rules of etiquette we follow when speaking to others and when someone breaches those rules it makes us uncomfortable.

When speaking with a person who communicates using AAC, it doesn't have to be awkward or difficult. For the most part, you  speak to them the way you would speak to anyone else, but there are some rules of etiquette to follow as well.

When I observe people communicating with Carter those rules are often broken. Sometimes I can look past it because people don't know any better; other times  people's behaviour is unacceptable.

With those thoughts in mind, my Seinfeld sketch is starting to take shape. 

So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to my cast of characters:

Carter - the star of the show! A charming and handsome young fella with a killer smile. He uses an AAC device (talker) to communicate. He is easy going and very sociable (when comfortable in his environment).

The Slow Talker - speaks slower to Carter. He/She assumes that because Carter doesn't talk, he won't understand what's being said to him 

This role could be played in conjunction with:

The Loud Talker - speaks loudly to Carter as though he is deaf.

The Cooing Babytalker - speaks to Carter like he's a toddler. He/She assumes that because Carter can't talk, he is not intelligent and can't understand what is being said to him.

The Impressed Talker - encounters Carter and thinks that using a speech device to communicate is 'pretty cool'.

The Unmindful Talker - talks/asks questions to Carter's caregiver instead of asking Carter directly; as though through some form of telepathy the caregiver can read Carter's thoughts and know exactly what he wants to say and will therefore speak on his behalf. 

Not to be confused with:

The As-though-he's-not-there Talker - talks about Carter, and other issues, in front of Carter as though he isn't there, or as though he is deaf.

The Impatient Talker - doesn't give Carter enough time to formulate a response on his talker. He/She carries on talking without giving Carter a chance to participate in the conversation.

This role could be played in conjunction with:

The Answer-for-him talker - speaks up on Carter's behalf before he has a chance to answer for himself.

Phew! There are more characters here than I had imagined. Perhaps this will turn into a season's worth of episodes instead of just one sketch. 

Be sure to tune in next time for some important lessons learned from all of these interesting characters! 

(to be continued)

Do people ever speak to you in a manner that you don't appreciate?

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. Stacey - what a great summary you have here! I have seen this cast of characters before (and not known who to be more uncomfortable for...) I was once guilty of being the loud talker for a great aunt who had been quite deaf for year until she had her ears flushed out, but that's a different situation...
    I like your point about people not knowing any better, because many don't. I'm guessing that helps you and your family stay patient. I would think humor would too (Cooing? Come-on!). The more positive, intelligent, differently-communicating people that get out into the public eye, the better.

    1. It's all about educating people, for sure, but when it's an SLP that's doing the cooing I tend to lose my sense of humour - that's a whole other blog post, one that wouldn't be very productive to write! Thanks, Ida Mae.

  2. An SLP? That's just not ok...