In the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States affirms that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. This freedom of speech is something that Americans have long cherished as a cornerstone of our civil society. It is clearly something that no citizen in our democracy should take for granted.
But what happens when you have something to say and no way to say it? What if you are one of the four million Americans who “cannot rely on natural speech to meet their daily communication needs” (Beukelman and Mirenda, 2013). What happens is you rely on family members, teachers, caregivers, and other people in your life to share your thoughts, ideas, and feelings based on what they believe you are trying to communicate through your body’s language and gestures.
Having someone else decide what you want to eat, wear, and even watch on TV can feel pretty limiting. Ultimately, these limitations affect what options you have around learning, working, and participating in your community. These limitations are, for the most part, totally unnecessary given the advances in treating communication disorders with therapy and assistive technology.
That’s what TASH’s new Speech for ALL campaign is all about—making sure that all children and adults who need assistance in communicating their needs, wants, and desires have the support to do so. If the Constitution of the United States says we are all guaranteed the freedom of speech, then ALL citizens should have the supports they need to exercise this basic right. Join us as we take action to make Speech for ALL a reality for those four million Americans who up until now have been left out of the conversation.
TASH will launch the Speech for ALL campaign at the 2016 TASH Conference in St. Louis this December. Another exciting launch date is tomorrow, September 21st, when ABC will premier its new series, Speechless at 8:30 pm EDT. The series follows the journey of a family who moves to an upscale town with what is supposed to be the perfect situation for their eldest son, JJ, who uses an alternative to natural speech. Watch as the season unravels – we will be!