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Jonathan’s Story About Not Being Able to Speak to Communicate

jonathan in his wheelchair with his book

Can you imagine not being able to speak to communicate? The silence, the loneliness, the pain. Inside you disappear to magical places, but most of the time remain imprisoned within the isolation. Waiting, longing, hoping. Until someone realises you potential and discovers your key, so your unlocking can begin. Now you are free, flying like a wild bird in the open sky. A voice for the voiceless. This is me, and this is my story.

When I entered the education system I was labelled as having Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD). I was enrolled at a Special School.

At first I enjoyed my time, making new friends and having fun with my lovely teacher – who made lessons engaging, varied and entertaining. Once a week, I attended my local primary school where I joined in with my able bodied peers for the afternoon. That first academic year set a foundation of friendship, forming the basis for my self-esteem; and belief that I can meaningfully join in with peers, despite my physical disabilities.

Entering year one I was looking forward to learning more, but instead I found my learning stagnate at a preschool level. For example, during literacy the teacher would read us an oversized toddler book with occasional flashes of the pictures, whilst we were given objects to feel.

How was I going to learn to read without access to text? Outwardly I looked vacantly stupid (giving credence to the idea that academically there was very little going on for me); inwardly I was amusing myself lost in my own thoughts. Meanwhile, I was increasingly enjoying my afternoon at the local primary and the learning I was joining them for.

During the summer of Year 2 Marion Stanton, an AAC literacy specialist, suggested to my mother that she should try to teach me, and so at the start of year 3, I was taken out of my Special School for an hour a day to be taught, by my mother, to read, write and do basic maths. During the previous summer I had done some work on basic phonics at home using an eye gaze computer. It was frustrating because the computer couldn’t read my eyes very well, but my mother and carers could using an etran frame – my access to learning was found! Initially, the progress was slow, but thankfully, the advice my mother was given, resulted in her making the lessons more challenging and I haven’t looked back since.

By year 5, two years after I started literacy and numeracy lessons at home, I had caught up with my peers and went on the roll of my local primary school. Now I am entering year 9 at my local mainstream secondary school studying English, maths and science.

Being able to read and write has totally transformed my life. As a non-verbal child, I can now communicate exactly what I want to say, my relationships have been renewed as I can hold conversations with family and friends, and there is new life in my free time!

My story of learning to read and write should not be unique. For this reason, I have set up my charity, Teach Us Too envisaging a world where all children are taught to read and write regardless of their educational label. Because labels should help educational practitioners understand the kind of barriers to learning a pupil will face, and the interventions that will help to overcome those barriers; but labels should never be an excuse not to teach children to read and write.

eye can write front cover

Whilst the vision behind Teach Us Too is my passion, my love is writing: prose and especially poetry. Last year these two amalgamated when my memoir Eye Can Write was published, with my share of the profits going to my charity. Sharing my story in the hope that it will change the stories of children like me.

This post has been written by Jonathan Bryan at Eye Can Talk. Jonathan has a book which is available on Amazon and all good book stores. Find out more via: http://bit.ly/EyeCanWriteBook

Facebook: Eye Can Talk
Twitter: @eyecantalk

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