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  • Tracey Campbell ACT

A plea for a voice

Updated: Nov 11, 2022


I wrote this several years ago in response to the continued struggle for people to get access to appropriate communication. I wish things had changed.


To all the adults who make decisions for me,

I would like to take this opportunity to ask for a really small thing. Well, let me clarify that for you. It’s a really small thing, but for me it’s massive.

I would really like access to a voice – a full voice that lets me say what I want to say, when I want to say it.

Ok I hear you, you don’t think I can manage and it’s too much for me – I might get overwhelmed, but hear me out.

I have been thinking about my baby cousin and how he got access to his voice. Here was me waiting for him to have to prove that he could use it. That’s what the rest of us have to do, right?

Listen to this, they were crazy. They talked to him before he was even born, what’s that about, that dude can’t even breathe never mind point or nod.

Then I noticed that he didn’t make a single sound for weeks, months even. But you know what, they kept talking to him using the same language. They didn’t switch languages on him every few weeks.

It gets even stranger. He starts talking back to them in some weird sounding language, I have never heard anything like it, even the dog makes more sense. So here was me thinking; “that is it, he has blown his chances, new system here we come”. But do you know what they did? They spoke back to him as if he was talking sense! Here is an example:

Cousin: “goo, blu, coo, coo”

Aunt: “Yes you have got the best mummy ever; I love you telling me all these stories”

Really?

You know what else I noticed? If my cousin didn’t answer in the way they wanted, no one ever gave ‘The Look’; you know the one that says he is just never going to get this. I also noticed he didn’t have to choose a lot between two random things on demand. All the stuff they talked about seemed more natural. Everyone believed in him no matter what rubbish he spoke. That side of the family have always been weird.

A much more normal approach is what my mum’s friend has being doing. She is good at languages, teaches them and everything, so she decided that she would take up Mandarin. Off she goes to a class every week for an hour (I mean, it’s a bit excessive but she’s keen, I’ll grant her that), apart from holidays and when life gets in the way she is there, primed up and ready to go. It’s been about 1.5 years and she ain’t exactly high functioning but hey, she can say hello and goodbye and who am I to judge.

Lately though I was wondering. Is it time to join the weird side of the family?  What if I could get taught in the same way as my cousin, he has made much better progress than my mum’s friend? I figure that if you just start teaching me the language, we can be working on a point or a yes or no at the same time. I mean, I know you think that I won’t ever be able to do it but what if I can and you don’t give me the chance? If you give me a full language, teach me how to use it, respond to my attempts in a positive way and give me time then who knows?

So I will do you a deal. If you give me this chance and you meet me in 20 years and I have a full life and a chance to contribute I will let you share in the glory. You can honestly say this started with your belief that this could work. (The rest of it is down to my hard work and everyone else’s but you don’t need to mention that). Hey, see even if I don’t manage to get to that level, I do have a lot of good stuff going on in here, and you will be able to look me in the eye and say that you believe in me. That on its own means a lot to me.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.


Tracey Campbell,



Picture of a teenager with complex communication needs

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