“What you want is a real talisman, a magic something you think I conjured up to coax Temple into joining life, as you hope your child will. There was no magic; there was just doing the best I could. That’s the point; that’s the talisman.”
Eustacia Cutler, A Thorn in My Pocket
I am grateful to special needs parents like Eustacia Cutler, the mother of Temple Grandin. Ms. Cutler tells her story of raising Temple in the book titled “A Thorn in My Pocket”. It is a story lived out in the 1950’s, long before the disability rights so many of us take for granted today. Her story is similar to those of other courageous parents, who have made so many of today’s advances possible.
Creating A Different Future
In our personal journey of building a special needs family, we have met countless parents like Ms. Cutler. These are those who were told upon birth to institutionalize their children, but chose instead to create a different future for them. They overcame extraordinary personal and societal pressures to build the best life possible for their children.
Overcoming Human Limits
All of these parents deserve our gratitude and admiration, because their pioneering efforts laid the foundation for the disability rights we enjoy today. They are the one’s who made advocacy and inclusion possible. The wonderful technologies, which help those with disabilities overcome their human limits, wouldn’t exist without them.
The Best Life Possible
I have been reflecting on the many lessons passed on to my wife and I from parents like these. One thing seems clear; these parents met their differences and difficulties with resilience and creativity. They viewed the future through the eyes of hope, and then worked with determination to make their dreams come true.
What were those dreams?
Giving their children the best life possible.
Raising a Verbally Challenged Child
As I ponder all of this, it is hard to imagine the difficulties faced by families whose children did not speak in the 1950’s. We don’t hear as much about children with verbal challenges.
For those of us with children who fall into this category inspiration can be elusive. The future can be frightening. Temple Grandin’s story might only take us for far, but then we must remember, it is the resilience, creativity, and determination that make her story an inspiration.
Considering the immense challenge of raising a verbally challenged child with special needs in the 1950’s makes me grateful for today. It makes me particularly grateful for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). One can only imagined what the parent of yesterday could have done with today’s tools.
This imagining led me to apply the lessons learned from those who have gone before us to making today’s tools work. What could the parents, doctors, therapist, and teachers who we have learned from over the last 20 years teach all of us about helping our kids use AAC?
I came up with 8 questions to answer based on the wisdom of those who have gone before us.
- What is AAC?
- When should we start?
- Where do we begin?
- Who does what?
- When will they talk?
- How do we make progress?
- What if it doesn’t work?
- How can we afford this?
My upcoming post’s will seek to answer these questions based on what I have learned and seen from others. By applying these lessons, I am confident each one of us will be able to create an AAC communication game plan for our children.