Nine year old Cadence singing “Shine Together – It’s okay to be a little different”, in sign language.
As a society, we so highly value speech ability that in its absence we often fail to recognise other equally valid forms of communication, including Makaton and sign language – this despite the reality that among the speaking community, only 7% of any message is conveyed through verbal words – 38% is through vocal elements such as tone, pitch, gasps, and a whopping 55% through non-verbal elements such as facial expressions, gestures and posture – and yet, we cling to the idea that speech ability has almost equivalent importance as our life’s blood.
Such is the misguided strength society places on the value of speech ability that children, and adults, who communicate non-verbally are, more often then not, perceived “less than”, and at worst (and more commonly), assumed incapable, unintelligent and incompetent.
We look forward to the day when the many valid, alternative ways to communicate – technology systems, sign language, behaviour, writing, art, music, eholia speech – are seen as equal value and importance to typical speech ability.
We look forward to when we, as individuals – and as a community – recognise that what we perceive as another’s communication ‘inabilities’; is infact a measure of our own inability to communicate in a method different to our own, so that genuine shared engagement, mutual respect and meaningful communication, is truly possible.
Until then, please join Cadence in singing, and signing, out loud.