My daughter is severely disabled. She is non-verbal, non-mobile and has an incredible personality. She cannot communicate a simple yes or no. She cannot signal where she hurts when in pain. She cannot inform you if she is hungry or tired. She is 16 years old. She has NO communication abilities. She does not come close to the communication of Washoe the signing chimp. This is not a reflection on her intelligence, knowledge or awareness, it is the statement that we do not know nor can we tell what she does possess. Note that without the fantastic technologies he uses to communicate, Stephen Hawking would not be able to communicate either.
Those around her, teachers, doctors, friends, family … all agree that she has an understanding of the world … and all believe that it is entirely possible that she has the understanding of at least a six year old. She understands. We know she sees, hears, smells, and reacts. It is possible she has the mind of a 16 year old, but most likely a six or seven year old.
Yet she cannot get anything out. Cannot speak, point, sign, purposely and repeatedly look in a direction, etc. Nada. Zip.
So why does everyone come up to her and ask “How are you today?”
Isn’t that cruel? To hear and understand a question, and be screaming the answer inside … ?
“Actually, things suck, thank you. How are you?”