Friday, 28 June 2013

#24 It's No 'Right' to Remain Silent

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say...

Well, I'm sure you know the rest. Most people are familiar with the miranda warning. But, outside of cop shows and action movies, unless you're in the habit of getting arrested (in the U.S.), there's no occasion for the so called 'right' to remain silent.

Those born with conditions that prevent them from speaking, and those who've had a stroke or brain injury resulting in the loss of speech, don't have a choice in the matter and probably wouldn't consider remaining silent much of a right.

Ensuring that Carter becomes a competent communicator is top priority to me. I often wonder why some parents and caregivers don't feel the same way. Why don't they advocate to give their non-verbal loved ones a voice? Is it because they're holding out hope that one day their loved one will talk? 

Maybe. Or, maybe they're unaware of the various AAC options available.

Maybe they don't realize that their loved one has the ability to communicate using AAC. 

Maybe they feel intimidated or overwhelmed by AAC. 

Maybe they have a lot of other things they're dealing with related to their loved one's disability or medical condition.

Maybe they feel discouraged by the lack of support available when it comes to augmentative communication. Quite often people are placed on long waiting lists for service. Perhaps they feel that when their loved one comes off the waiting list, the support they receive will be minimal and it will be challenging to help their loved one become a competent communicator with the limited support that's available.

Maybe they've gone through the process of waiting for service, and upon receiving service their loved one was not successful with the chosen method of AAC.

Maybe it's a combination of these things.

Whatever the reason, it's never too late to give someone a voice. Communication is a basic human right.  Everyone deserves to be heard. And in this day and age, those who need AAC should not be without.

I can only hope that more people will adopt this attitude because when you can't speak up, you rely on others to do it for you. You need an advocate; a parent or caregiver that will look out for you and protect your rights until you are competent enough to advocate for yourself. But how can you do that if you don't have a reliable method of communication? 

With that in mind, I took the liberty of revamping the miranda rights to make them specific to individuals with complex communication needs:

You have the right to a voice.

Anything you communicate in whatever manner possible can and will be acknowledged and respected.

You have the right to be assisted by professionals and care givers in order that you become a competent communicator.

When you decide to ask questions and communicate, you will be given extra time to do so and you will not be talked down to or ignored.

Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them here, are you willing to work hard with your team to become a competent communicator?

What would your answer be if you were unable to speak?  (I'm willing to bet it would be a resounding, yes.)

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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