As we wrap up the summer and get ready to head back to school, we at REV want to say a huge THANK YOU to our marvelous communication intern, Morgan. Morgan, who will be a senior in high school this year, served as a communication partner to one of our students this summer, took over our snapchat account, and brought a unique perspective to our sessions. THANK YOU, Morgan for being so dedicated! The following post is written by Morgan, reflecting on her time with Reach Every Voice this summer.
This summer, I found myself attached to the kids at REV in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. On one hand, I was their mentor, their superior; I was a facilitator and employee. I walked into the institute expecting to do just that, however I seemed to fill other roles instead.
Sometimes, it felt as though they were my mentor. Sure, my brother, Harry, has been typing since I was eleven years old. Most of my middle school memories consist of (besides the typical awkwardness) experiencing a legal battle between my family and the school system, spending my afternoons watching my brother learn how to type and in the evenings, keeping an eye on five boys during a makeshift institute consisting of other families like ours, in one family’s cramped basement. As they grew older, and their parent’s relentless fighting continued, they finally had their chance for an education. As they went through elementary, middle, and now High School, I was just a few years ahead. Over what felt like such a short period of time, I still spent occasions with the original five, being so naive to think that I was now an expert on autism. However, none of this truly prepared me for the work that I would go on to do at REV.
Harry and the other kids in this program are somewhat similar. They’re all male, and for the most part, non-verbal. While I thought that I was heading into the summer as an expert in autism, or at least autistic kids who type, I was completely thrown off guard on my first day.
By April of this year, I was assigned to work with a fourteen year old girl named Ashna. She was typically the only girl present at our institute this summer. She would be considered to be “verbal”, however the majority of her language is scripted and unreliable. But I didn’t understand how that could be so. Why would someone who is verbal need an alternative mode of communication? Shouldn’t this method be reserved for those who are completely non-verbal?
Thinking back to such backwards opinions I had just a few short months ago, I feel guilty, shameful, and embarrassed. But then I feel grateful, for Ashna. Over the six weeks that we worked together, we typed for three hours, and then hung out at home for anywhere from three to five hours on top of that. Over this time, I realized how much she needed RPM. Sure, she could independently tell me, reliably, if she needed the bathroom, water, and that was just about it. Even “yes” and “no” weren’t completely reliable. If I didn’t have a board on hand, I was just as stuck as if I was in the same situation with Harry, who has no verbal language.
Not only did working with the incredible young woman teach me lessons that affected me on such a personal level, but so did every single one of the kids at the institute. Because of them I came home and typed with my brother more often, which strengthened our relationship tremendously. I was reminded of how grateful I should be to automatically receive a fair education, and to always, always presume competence.
Thank you, typers, for truly making this the best summer that I have ever experienced (and last summer I met Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, so you KNOW you’re important to me). You have changed my perspective on the world from black and white to full color. You are all incredible forces of nature who deserve to live without fear of judgement, and I pledge to work towards that for you.
Morgan Burdick is a high school senior, the big sister of a letterboarder, and a fierce advocate for inclusion and building relationships among peers.