special voice

I wanted to talk a little bit about what I call “special voice.”

Special voice is like nails on a chalk board to me.

Special voice is the in which many adults talk to Evie and her disabled/autistic peers.

Special voice is a weird combination of firm-nasty-baby voice.

It is often combined with over-prompting (which I wrote a little about here).

Let me give you an example.

Yesterday when I picked Evie up from her summer program, I had the opportunity to observe a little.

All of the kids were working on an art project.  One of the paras said to her student, “Now!  You are only going to pick one more color.  Then you are going to get a pipe cleaner.  And you are going to use your quiet voice.”

I get the importance of setting expectations for many kids.  I do.  However, art, in my opinion, should never be directed.  This is one of the places that we can let kids do their own thing to a great extent.

It is totally unnecessary and tiresome to be prompted to this extent.

And the kid was being quiet.  Why do we need to prompt a kid to continue to do what he is already doing?

And it isn’t just what was said.  It is the special voice that she used.

I try to avoid baby talk–even to babies.  But baby talking a 5/6/7 year old is just inappropriate.  And condescending.  It doesn’t matter if the child is disabled.  Stop it.

And the tone of the baby talk in special voice is at odds baby talk.  Using a voice that is ridden with something nasty.  I can’t quite explain it.  It is almost disgusted reprimand?

Preemptive reprimand?  What is the point of that, even?

Autistic kids are routinely spoken to like this.  Actually, I hear versions of special talk, spoken to all kids.  And I think it sucks.  Children are worthy of our respect.  When we truly respect them as people, it is reflected in our actions and the way we speak to them.

Pretty simple–treat others how you would want to be treated.

6 thoughts on “special voice

  1. You’d think it was simple … Its comparable with elder-speak, actually it’s probably the same thing, speaking to an elderly person as if they cannot understand normal tone and language …

    • I guess there are many populations of people that get special voice–you’re right. I hear people doing it to my great aunt all of the time. I was so happy when I went to a doctor appointment with her last summer and she told the doctor, who was using it, to knock it off.

  2. Not a fan of special voice, and there are people who use it with DD adults too, once they catch on to the disability. Ugh.

    Your art story is depressing. Can I share a happier one? My daughter is teaching reading to 5th graders this summer. She has an autistic boy in her class. Yesterday when she put out markers for coloring, he studied them for a bit and said, “no thank you” so she told him he could “color” with his pencil. He did and everyone was happy. Simple as that.

    Later, one of the other teachers asked her why the boy doesn’t give her the kind of trouble he gives the other other teachers and my daughter said, “Did you know that he’s autistic? There are some simple things you can do to make things easier for both of you. Actually, they work for other kids too.” I was so proud of her when she shared that story last night. Being raised by an autistic mom, she knows that sometimes small accommodations can go a long way to making everyone happier and it doesn’t have to be a big deal or patronizing or even obvious.

  3. I can imagine that DD adults get the voice as well. Grrrrr…
    I love the story about your daughter. Thank you for sharing it here. Is it really so difficult to treat everyone the same and make accommodations when necessary? Accommodations, in my opinion, are not special. They are part of treating people with respect. And with any kid—pick your battles! Like your daughter did with the pencil. For the love of Pete! Do adults not realize how much easier life is for everyone when you give kids as much freedom as possible? Gah!

  4. Pingback: autcom: how NOT to do it | love explosions

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