Friday, 9 October 2009

A word after a word after a word ....

Thanks for all of your positive comments on the blog. Apparently though they have been a bit long as the ideal blog length is 400 words so I am aiming to be less verbose. The painful task of limiting myself to 400 words made me consider a comment made recently by a colleague that 800 words won’t get you a job. They were reflecting on the fact that many young men do not have the range of words necessary to get a job or remain employed.

Lots of the young people served by the Trust do not have, or cannot use, the words that they need. Many may know the words but physically struggle to express them; others may not be able to apply the right words in social scenarios; some may not be able to bring the right word to mind and still others may choose not to say any words at all.[1]

This is such a loss because words are wonderful. You can shout them, whisper them, write them, sign them, enjoy them. Thanks to I CAN you can even adopt them.[2]

Some people can taste words – an article in the press this week described a man with synaesthesia, a neurological disorder in which one sense is experienced as if it were perceived by another. The word treacle tasted awful but computer tasted of popcorn. For him what his partner was called could literally be the difference between sweet things or a sour ending.

Words are constantly evolving – teenagers are at the forefront of developing new words – noob, mwah,meh[3] - and this evolution is to be celebrated. It is not just teenagers though – my daughter, struggling to remember the right word, asked if we could have the coldiator on[4]. What words have entered your family lexicon?

Words can be funny, they can be sweet, they can be rude. A colleague caused much consternation when she programmed swear words, at a young person’s request, into their ‘talk box’. Why should a teenager needing AAC not have the same range of words as his peers?

Words are powerful. They can start a revolution and end a war. The more words we have access to the better we are able to express our wants, to explain the subtleties of our opinions and to create links with others.

For me the best word is also one of the shortest. No. The ability to choose, and to be able to express that choice, is a fundamental part of being human. Imagine being trapped in a world where you literally cannot say no – the strength and importance of being able to express that simple two letter word quickly becomes apparent.

For the Communication Trust ensuring that every child can express the words that they need to be understood, and can understand the words that are said to them, is an essential part of what we do.

Because, to paraphrase my favourite saying, a word after a word after a word is not just a sentence - it is power.

[1] For an outline of all the ways that young people can be denied their words see The Communication Trust’s “Explaining SLCN”

[3] A newbie, a kiss, a sound of disapproval

[4] Henceforth the name of mummy’s car air conditioning

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