Devin sat before me with his head laid down on the table. As I spoke with him, he would lift his head slightly, respond and lay it back down. At one point he sat straight up with tears in his eyes and said “Go ahead you can try to fix me! 200 others have already tried and it didn’t work!” I looked him in the eye and asked, “What if there isn’t anything wrong with you?” He hesitated just for a brief second. The question had caused him to pause. Then he listed a litany of how he was broken; including that he “had the attention span of a rodent!” Again I asked, What if nothing is wrong with you? This time he paused even longer and considered that possibility. I asked, “What’s right about you that you are not getting?” Again he paused, sat up straighter, and became present with me, meeting me eye to eye.
From that point on, Devin shared what occurred for him in school and at home. I asked questions and gave him tools to look at it all from a different place. In his list of brokenness, he had mentioned many body ailments. Quite a few considering he was only ten years old. After sharing the information that 99.9% of every thought, feeling, and emotion might not be his, I gave him a question to play with (Who does it belong to? Is it mine?) to see if that was true for him and we finished our visit.
When I returned the following week, I found a different young man. I actually took a step back. The change was so great that I had to make sure I was in the right classroom and had the right student! Devin was smiling, laughing and engaged with the rest of the class. When we spoke, he was excited and told me he felt so much better. “ My body doesn’t hurt anymore! Oh, and I have two new friends!” he exclaimed! Now I was the one with tears in my eyes.
So this is what I do. I have lots of credentials and qualifications that I could list. I could tell you in educational terms that I assist students in accessing the general curriculum: overcome barriers. I could tell you I find augmentative and alternative ways to communicate for children and adults.
Devin and the changes in him, his body, and his life, that’s what I facilitate. I translate realities; parents’ realities, teachers’ realities, children’s, and adults’ realities. I build bridges between those realities. The space of those bridges allows kids who have never spoken to speak, parents to be hugged by their child who never touches, and people who have lived in the wrongness of themselves and their lives to see the gift and contribution they truly be. –
Jill works as Coordinator of Assistive Technology (AT) and Communication Disorders at the Training and Technical Assistance Center at Virginia Tech University. She has 16 years experience as a speech-language pathologist and over 10 years as an AT Specialist in the state of Florida.
Jill currently serves on the Assistive Technology State-Directed Project in the Commonwealth of Virginia. She is involved in facilitating over 30 school divisions’ development of Assistive Technology process and procedures. She also is active in the development and training of school divisions’ AT Teams. As part of her role as coordinator she provides consults for school divisions in the area of communication needs.