“Just because I can’t talk, doesn’t mean that I have nothing to say”. This is one of my favorite quotes that I often share with my graduate students.
As a speech language pathologist who specializes in Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is a powerful book that teaches the reader many valuable lessons about individuals with disabilities, specifically those that affect speech. A couple of months ago, my friend’s daughter and I were discussing a recent book that she just read titled Out of My Mind. I was impressed about what the book taught her with respect to communication and how it gave her perceptive of those individuals with complex communication needs. After reading this book myself, I felt Out of my mind truly captures the perspective of a child with limited communication and intact cognition.
Out of My Mind is a chapter book about a young girl named Melody who is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, which limits her expressive language. Although she can produce vocalizations, she has no functional speech for communication. Although Melody can’t speech, her cognition is not impacted and has a photographic memory. She learns and understands the world like her peers but can’t communicate this knowledge and intelligence due to her inability to speak. The book begins with Melody’s description of being in a self-contained classroom with the inability to communicate. She enjoys her classmates but is challenged by the inexperience of many of her teachers and aides who don’t know how to teach and treat her properly. She is often feels dis-empowered and becomes frustrated due to the simplicity of the content being taught. For example, she knows how to read but is being taught the same letter over and over again. Although her family and special neighbor, Mrs. V understand her intelligence and advocate for her, it’s a special teacher at school that sees the potential in Melody’s intelligence that leads to significant changes. With the joint support of home and school personnel, Melody begins to receive the services she needs with the addition of opportunities to participate in inclusion classrooms. During these inclusion classes, with the help of her one to one aide and her communication board (a board filled with letters and pictures) she begins to participate like other children and build friendships with typical peers. Once her intelligence becomes obvious to more and more people, she receives a high tech communication device called the Medi Talker. With this device, Melody finally has a voice and can participate in classroom activities as well prove herself on the Quiz Team, which becomes an important experience in her life. Out of My Mind is a special book that teaches the reader about the strengths and challenges that a child can face with physical disabilities, specifically when a child cannot communicate via speech.
To learn more about Augmentative and Alternative Communication, check out PrAACtical AAC.
To learn more about encouraging communication with children who are nonverbal, check out this article that I wrote at Friendship Circle of Michigan.
Who is this book for? Although this book is appropriate for grades 3 and up, I find it to be appropriate and important to read for all educators and health care professionals.
I wanted to include a short paragraph written by a 3rd grade book reviewer:
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