Gwendolyn gave a speech today! Yes, a speech — to her whole class. This is actually her second oral presentation. And we couldn't be more proud.
Gwendolyn's first speech was in the fall as part of teaching the first graders how to do research. She selected the animal she wanted to research; to our surprise she chose the hippopotamus. She then checked for books in the school library with her class and we searched the Internet together. We found ten facts which she then narrowed down to the five that she wanted to share (using her “Yes” and “No” sounds she was very specific about which facts she selected). With her special education teacher, Ms. W, she chose the order she wanted to say her information and chose pictures to go along with each fact. Ms. W then uploaded the photos and the facts into “Say Hi! AAC,” the iPad communication app we built, and used her voice to record what Gwendolyn wanted to say. Oh and Gwendolyn decided to include a joke as her closing. A joke. I just love this little girl.
This time the class has been studying weather and had a voluntary “Challenge Option” to give a weather report. Gwendolyn was quick to sign up. She selected “Sunny Weather” and with Tina and Ms. W she researched the topic, narrowed down what she wanted to say, and together they decided on the order and recorded it all into Say Hi! AAC on her iPad. Her classroom has a large screen that can connect to her iPad, so Gwendolyn's facts and pictures come up behind her as she taps each picture to allow it to “speak” her information. While Ms. W's voice says her words Gwendolyn also enunciates each syllable along with the recording. And little funny face wanted to end with another joke — this time one she and Ms. W made up:
Let us jump in the lake — it's so hot out here!
Watching Gwendolyn give her speech — we are in awe. Our determined, brave, resilient little girl is so proud to speak and share her thoughts and personality with her class. And she should be. With the help of Say Hi! AAC her world just got a little bit bigger. Gwendolyn giving a speech is of course incredible to Bill and I just because we are her parents and we think it takes courage for any child to go before their peers to share. But, Gwendolyn just gave a SPEECH. A speech. For a non-verbal child this is huge! Knowing that Gwendolyn wants so much to be heard that she is more than willing to put in the extra work to make that happen is, well, beautiful and inspires us more than I can explain.
Gwendolyn has really blossomed this year and is pushing herself in so many ways. Her extra efforts continue to build a bridge for her to access her peers. Her classmates are so encouraging and complimentary. When she was finished with her presentation their little arms shot up to tell her what part they liked best and what a great job she did. And their praise and unconditional love just motivates her even further.
I know many don't quite understand how Gwendolyn, a non-verbal child, can really be doing any of this. It's unique, to say the least. I know some may even think we are doing it for her. But this is all Gwendolyn. With the right tools, some out-of-the-box creative thinking, and a team of people who understand and believe in her, Gwendolyn continues to expand her own horizons and take us all along on the incredible ride.
Today we are extra proud parents just in awe of our amazing little girl!