This is a story about a teen girl chasing a dream to be a singer, despite being unable to talk…
The first time she heard a voice being used as an instrument, was the day she would mark as euphoric. How hard able bodied people have to work to make their visions come to life, caused her to doubt whether she could dare to desire such a career for herself. Speaking was almost impossible though she was given the tools to sing words by hitting letters on a keyboard. She knew with determination, practice and patience she could, at least, try. A challenge she embraced and will tackle greedily.
Easy and challenge are not friends, but joy and challenge can be.
Awhile ago Emma wrote, “Talking is hard because I like to say silly things that people take seriously and that is why I am misunderstood.”
Yesterday Richard referenced Emma’s “silly things” but without the full quote and I think some may have read his words and thought he was suggesting her spoken words were silly, when he was actually quoting Emma. But the context is everything and when Emma wrote the above, it was about written language versus spoken. I was reminded of my friend, Leah Kelley who has a blog, Thirty Days of Autism. About a year ago, Leah posted a video that I thought so hysterical, I had to share it and have since watched it many times. It’s called Bulbous Bouffant.
I dare anyone to watch this video and not smile. Me? I laughed out loud. Did any of you join in, saying the words out loud? I did. Was this silly of me? YES! I love silly. Silly is way under rated. How much more fun would we all have if we could engage in conversations like this one? Those of you who hate clicking on links, you’re going to have to… go on, just do it. It’s hilarious.
We live in a world where this sort of conversation is not exactly encouraged. In fact, most people, if they encountered such a person while waiting for the bus or subway would probably try to politely extricate themselves from such a conversation. Someone who spoke, as the person in the video does, would be thought odd and would be avoided. He might even frighten people.
A few months ago, Emma wrote, “I am intelligent and cannot speak with the same brilliant words that are in my mind.” And I understood completely what she was saying. We need to show that we are intelligent before we can lapse into the silliness of enjoying the sounds of a word, simply because it’s fun, or admit that a word makes us happy, not because of its meaning, but just because of the way it feels and sounds while saying it. Intelligence first and then silliness can ensue, but if intelligence isn’t proven, then silliness becomes “inappropriate” or “weird” or any number of other words we use when we think someone is not like us and less than.
Yesterday Emma wrote, “I troubled you when I intended to talk and words told different tales than I thought.” I have to say it made me sad to read her words because she’s right, it did trouble me, and had I known how bright she was, I would not have been so troubled. But this is also a problematic statement because it’s focused on perceived intelligence and shows a definite prejudice towards those who are defined as “intelligent” versus those who are not. That actually goes against everything I believe. ALL human beings should be treated equally, with respect, love and kindness, no matter what their perceived intelligence is. And yet, my obvious prejudice is there and so this is something I will look at and be more aware of. Without awareness, I cannot change.
So when Emma then wrote, “I realize any words are valued more than silence” I understood her to mean her “written words” because those are the words we applaud her for, those are the words we quote and talk about, those are the words we say, “Here! Read this!” Partly because they are so insightful and wonderfully wise, but also because they prove, beyond a doubt, how very bright she is. But also there’s a hierarchy in our culture – the more spoken language an Autistic child has, the “higher” functioning they are deemed. Spoken language in our culture is everything.
Except what about all those people who have not found a way to express themselves? What about those who cannot express “profound insights”? Are they less important? Are they somehow less human? Are they not deserving of the same respect and treatment we so easily and readily give to those who speak eloquently and brilliantly?
“I realize any words are valued more than silence.”