Hi-Hope supports an individual named Ember who has a hearing impairment and uses sign language. She experiences understandable frustration when she is unable to be understood and so it was a very, very welcomed surprise when we discovered that our new intern from Troy University is fluent in sign language. We paired our intern with Ember's group and they immediately gravitated to one another - communicating with familiar signs and learning new ones as well as developing an understanding of some signs that are unique to Ember. Perhaps the most telling thing about the whole interaction is the way that they both seem to light up in each other's presence. Both Ember and our intern were visibly happy they went through some American Sign Language flash cards. Furthermore, this educational opportunity turned personal as Ember shared photographs of her family members - a display of trust that really got to the heart of our intern.
All of this gives one the opportunity to reflect on the importance of communication and the ability and right to be "heard." The ability to express one's basic needs as well as their wants and desires is essential to participating in the human experience. Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger is quoted as stating, "one of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood." That is why really delving into effective communication with Ember is so important - it is more than just relaying messages. It is about friendship, it is about trust, it is about dreams and hopes and ambitions. Conceptual artist John Baldessari stated that "it is human desire to be understood." And so we appreciate our intern helping Ember fulfill a basic desire and extend an invitation to anyone who is familiar with sign language, other languages or alternate forms of communication (for example, speech generating devices (SGDs) or augmentative and alternative communication systems (AACs)) to set up a time to visit Hi-Hope and bring the simple pleasures of effective communication to one of our individuals.