• WHAT WE DO
    WHAT WE DO

    Trinh Foundation Australia works to assist the Vietnamese people to establish Speech Therapy as a profession in their country. We collaborate with our Vietnamese partners to create ...

  • VOLUNTEER
    VOLUNTEER

    You can volunteer for Trinh Foundation in a number of ways – and you don’t have to leave the country, if you don’t want to. We are always looking for volunteers, to travel to Vietnam ...

  • CURRENT WORK
    CURRENT WORK

    TFA works in partnership with a number of educational and clinical institutions throughout Vietnam to deliver on our mission of bringing speech therapy to Vietnam ...

A day without a voice – a reflection by Sarah Verdon

On the 20th of August I gave up speaking for 24 hours to raise money for the Trinh Foundation Australia. I chose to do this not only to raise funds for a worthy cause, but also to raise awareness of what the cause is ultimately about – giving a voice to those who don’t have one. I never realised that as a result of this process, the person whose awareness of communication difficulties would be most raised would be myself.

 

The day of silence arrived when I was on a weekend away with my husband, and two of our closest friends, my husband’s brother and his girlfriend. We were at the family holiday home in the mountains of northeast Victoria, a place we often love to go to relax and spend time in the outdoors. In the time leading up to this day I thought that the greatest challenge of not being able to speak would be getting across the basic needs and wants of my everyday life, but what I found that is wasn’t that basic communication I craved, it was social interaction and inclusion. I was able to nod “yes” and shake my head for “no” to answer basic questions, but as the group laughed and told stories and jokes, I realised that along with my voice it was my personality that was taken away. I would think of funny things to add to the conversation, but by the time the others guessed what I was trying to say the moment had passed. Eventually I stopped trying to engage and just listened. The others tried to include me but it was easier to continue the conversation without me trying to participate. I felt a great sense of isolation, even though I was in one of my favourite places with people I loved.

 

On top of the isolation, when we went out in public I felt powerless, I was completely reliant on my husband to order food for me and couldn’t easily clarify what I wanted, so I had rely on his choices and best guesses at what I would like to eat. My husband reflected that he wasn’t sure who was having a more difficult day, me or him, as so much of the responsibility for communication and decision making fell to him. I realised how important it was to have support from others and also how the difficulty involved in clarifying communication breakdowns can strip the autonomy from a person who cant effectively and quickly communicate their needs.

 

For the first time, in some way I was able to understand what life is like for people who cannot communicate easily and effectively. I began to wish the day to be over, it felt so long and it was hard to pass the time. I realised for me that this was just one day, but for some people it is the unending reality of their lives. The experience made me reflect upon my practice and what we do to help those with a communication need. I didn’t yearn for a communication board with a yes/no option or fixed choices of basic needs. What I wanted was a way to engage with others, to enjoy life and participate in my relationships. I wanted to show my personality, my strength and my independence. These are the things that really mattered.

 

I feel that this experience has given me an important insight into the perspective of those with communication needs. I would encourage anyone who works or shares their life with people who have difficulty communicating to take a walk in their shoes for just one day to truly understand how precious the gift of communication is.

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