Yesterday, I worked as a para with a 10 year old, autistic boy. I occasionally sub for his usual para, and this was my third time working with him. It was track and field day at school, so we got to spend a few fun hours outside in the sunshine. We had a great day together; but every time that I work with this boy, I find myself pondering what it would be like not to have a voice. You see, in my first sentence, I omitted one very significant detail: he is completely non-verbal. He doesn’t speak at all – not a word.
Now, don’t make the mistake of thinking that his speech delay means that he must also be mentally delayed, because nothing could be further from the truth. Mentally, he is at the same level as other boys his age. He is very bright and quite capable of completing his fourth grade assignments with very little assistance. The fact that he’s unable to talk doesn’t mean that he can’t communicate; it only means that it’s more challenging for him than for most, because he can’t use words. When he wants to say something, he sometimes uses a program on his ipad, but more often than not, he gestures and makes noises. Even though he can’t speak, he has a voice. He just hasn’t learned how to use it yet.
As someone who loves words (both written and spoken), I know that I could never imagine what it must be like for him. I wonder if he feels trapped inside of his own body when he’s unable to express his thoughts and ideas. I think, “It must be like living in a nightmare.” Then I realize that I’m wrong to think this, because it’s all that he’s ever known. What seems like a nightmare to some, may simply be a way of life for another.
I wonder how many “normal” people – with full speech capability – still haven’t learned how to use their voices? How many people have been trapped inside of their own bodies by fear and insecurity unable to effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas? How many of these people are blood-bought believers in Jesus Christ? Are you one of them? If you are, then I encourage you to spend some time alone in God’s presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to take control. Ask Him to bring you into a greater revelation of God’s love, and to break off the fear and insecurity that has been ruling over you. Ask Him to show you who you are, who He created you to be. Stop comparing yourself to others. Let God define you, and drop any labels you’ve been wearing that He hasn’t given you. You were created special and one-of-a-kind. There is no other “you” in all of existence. So, hold your head up and confidently be you.
Everyone has a voice. Everyone has a unique story weaved into the fabric of eternity. Everyone has something of great worth to share, to give, to impart that will enrich the lives of those who receive it. Everyone – yes, every one. Even you.
You have a voice.
Your voice is valuable.
It’s time to start using it.