This article is part of our Breaking Barriers Fall 2021. This installment features articles on people living with speech differences and the challenges they face, adaptations they have made, and the power of listening and being heard. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers.
Shakespeare wrote, “The eyes are the window to the soul.” In the last couple years, my eyes have become more than just the window to my soul; they have become my lifeline and means of communication with my family and friends.
Living with spinal muscular atrophy for 40 years, I have learned to adjust my life when abilities would slowly diminish and eventually disappear. I have always been thankful to God for giving me a positive personality in spite of my progressive disability. But, a couple years ago when my disability affected my ability to speak, I was not so willing to relinquish my voice and adapt my life.
I needed my voice! I had no use of my arms or legs, and I couldn’t move my head. I needed my voice to instruct others on my care, to operate my voice-activated computer so I could continue my online teaching position, to interact with my family and friends. With my voice diminished to a whisper, I inwardly pleaded with God to restore my voice. His answer of restoration was far different from what I expected.
While God didn’t restore my ability to speak, he did provide me with resources to obtain a speech generating device. This device is a computer that I control completely with the movement of my eyes. I can browse the internet, play computer games and type documents with my eyes. The computer will also verbalize whatever I type with my eyes. It allows me to express my needs and thoughts without much effort.
While a wonderful device, it is slow and has limitations. When communicating with those who know me well, I have found my most efficient and effective way of talking is with my eyes. I have been told that my eyes speak volumes even when no sound is uttered. I’ve learned that God has given me big, expressive eyes not only for seeing, but also for speaking.
God has taught me to adapt to this life when he restored my voice—through my eyes!