Rosemary Crossley, A.M., Ph.D.
Speechless: Facilitating Communication for People without Voices
Chapter 9, pp. 156-79
Copyright © Rosemary Crossley, 1997
Reprinted with the permission of Rosemary Crossley, A.M., Ph.D|
Director, DEAL Communication Centre Inc.
538 Dandenong Road
CAULFIELD 3162 Australia
61-3-9509 6324. Fax: 61-3-9386 0761
It's hard to read a poem to yourselfAlmost no one who knew Jan, the fourteen-year-old author of this poem, believed she had written it. She has Down syndrome. People with Down syndrome don't write poetry. People with Down syndrome can't learn to read. That's what everyone believed when Jan's parents were growing up. It's probably what the doctor who delivered her believed.
You cannot hear the words.
You have to imagine the sound, the rhythm.
The sense is there, the feeling lost.
Imagine writing a poem without being able to read it aloud.
It's like playing a record in a soundproof room
It's going round, but no-one on the outside can hear.
If I was deaf, would it be the same or different?
'Is there anybody there?' said the Traveller,Jan's parents were limited in their ability to read to her because they were not native English speakers. Laura said Peacock Pie was Jan's favorite book; she'd bought it herself. Jan wanted to type out a poem from it, and while she was doing this I got some other anthologies out.
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest's ferny floor;
Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,' he said.
Better a mother who cannot loveJan's parents were quite pleased with the poem, but I don't think they realized that Jan had written it.
Better a car that cannot move
Better a boy who cannot walk
Than to have a voice that cannot talk.
0 laith, laith were our gude Scots lordsI could understand her wanting help!
To wet their cork-heel'd shoon;
But lang or a' the pay was play'd
They wat their hats aboon.
And mony was the feather bed
The flatter'd on the faem;
And money was the gude lord's son
That never mair cam hame.
Using a computer to write poetry is like usingShe tired quickly, and I held her sleeve for most of the poem.
Hand-made writing paper for the grocery list
It is more sophisticated than the message.
Whatever happened to pens?
No-one will ever be sold a manuscript of my work.
Can I ever go back to my first ideas?
Quality presentation may hide poor content.
Does the software live up to the hardware
In poet as in computer?
Up to the early 1900s people with Down syndrome were typically viewed as being profoundly mentally retarded. Surveys of children and adults during the first half of this century classified most people with Down syndrome in the severely mentally retarded category. Kirman's (1944) review suggested that the majority of Down syndrome children fell in the moderately to severely retarded range, with 2-3% achieving at the mildly retarded level. In the 1960s there were reports of up to 10% of cases being educable or mildly retarded. By the mid-70s it was suggested that perhaps as many as 20-50% of older children and adults with Down syndrome were in the mild range, with a small number even achieving within the normal range.... (Clunies-Ross, 1986)This revision is the equivalent to a jump of something approaching 40 points in mean IQ scores over a sixty-year period. What will we be saying in 2006?
It was the first time Len had met a robot. He didnt know how to behave. He was worried that hed get it angry and really it would go crazy. He put his hand out but the robot didnt shake it. He expected the robot to speak the robot said Hullo Len in a gastly voice. Len said hullo and made a cup of tea. He offered the robot a cup but the robot wouldnt have any because it would rust its insides. Len gave him a micro chip instead.Not great literature, but fine for a thirteen-year-old. Fiona's use of unexpected words is sometimes reminiscent of Jan, but she has never shown any inclination to write poetry. Six months after Fiona started coming to DEAL, when her pointing skills and her self-confidence had both improved, I gave Fiona a Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test.4 Before asking each question I put Fiona's index finger on each picture, to ensure that she had scanned all possibilities and to ensure that there was a pause between questions, reducing the chance of impulsive or perseverative responses; otherwise, she had no facilitation. She obtained a raw score of 143, and her standardized score was well above the average for her nondisabled peers. The last plates that she got correct were "edifice" and "rapture."
Getting off the train I saw a man in a wheelchair. He wasn't able to talk and he used a computer. Why do they have ramps for wheelchairs if they don't let [in] people like me [who are] told [we are] stupid. After all access isn't about walking [but] about being in everything. I want to be in class with all the other students. After I get better at following all the work I want to do exams so I can do a childcare course. I like children but I need to get a certificate to work with them. A trial would be good. What about work experience in a childcare center? Now I've finished but don't just laugh. I really want to do this. Really seriously I want a job with children. Better to work than get a pension. Now that's all [Punctuation and capital letters added].We linked Fiona's school up with a school where another DEAL client with Down syndrome and very little speech was a successful senior, and last time I heard from Fiona's mother she said things are now going better. Fiona's family is supportive, and her ambition to work with children seems both reasonable and realizable.
His answer to the third Similarities question (In what way are a dog and a lion alike?) is noteworthy: "They are in two different classes; the lion is in the cat class, and the dog is in a class by himself." Then, after a brief pause, he added as if in afterthought, "But of course they are both carnivorous!" (Buck, 1955, p. 457)It still took several more years for Buck to convince the medical administration that Bolt should be allowed to leave the institution. Buck concluded his account by saying,
For many years the term "Mongolian idiot" was freely used in the literature. Later it was concededgrudgingly, to be surethat Mongoloids under optimal circumstances might even function with the efficiency of morons. Then Pototzky and Grigg reported two Mongoloids whose intelligence might be termed "borderline."And this was forty years ago!
This changing trend and the case of the Sage [Benjamin Bolt's nickname in the institution] compel one to speculate that before too long it may well be demonstrated that Mongolism need not inevitably be accompanied by mental retardation. . . . (Buck, 1955, p. 481)
|Revised: December 20, 1999.|