No Words (Yet): The Rights of Emerging/ Pre-Verbal Toddlers and Nonverbal Children to Participate in Their Own Care and Learning
AuthorLichtsinn, Jennifer Sue
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractHow do young children arrive at a sense of their rights? How can they use their emerging abilities as emerging pre-verbal and nonverbal children before they can speak? What are the strategies that a young child uses to participate in letting their opinions known before words? This qualitative study seeks to transform the lives and evoke the agency of these young children by recognizing and encouraging them to have their rights articulated. In this study, I spent time with a toddler, age thirteen to fourteen months, and with a seven-year-old nonverbal, multi-handicapped child. I observed and interviewed the parents of these children and wrote narratives about my experiences in these settings. I sought to describe the various way that these children chose to communicate, express opinions and make decisions being able to talk. I listened carefully for the ‘voiceless voice’ which emerged as these child ‘social actors’ moved toward verbal communication. The agency and voice of toddlers with emerging verbal abilities and clinically diagnosed nonverbal children can be viewed in the context of a child’s right to participate in their own care and learning. Young children and children with disabilities are frequently othered. Othered populations (Lahman, 2008) may be excluded from having valuable contributions to decisions about their lives, their care and learning. Ignoring a child’s right to be involved in their life is a dehumanizing approach which sees young children as somehow less. However, these very populations have been included in and granted rights by the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989), ratified by most nations of the world. Children, including infants and those with very limited vocal abilities due to disabling conditions have the right to express their opinions and to make decisions about things in their lives that affect them. This kind of post modernistic approach sees these children as more and points to ways that young children’s emerging communicative attempts can be viewed, valued and utilized to improve their lives and the interactions with their parents, caregivers, and each other (Swadener, Lundy, Habashi, & Blanchet-Cohen, 2013). In seeing the value of the communication that children offer, we can allow children to lead their own care and learning along with their parents and family who can support that journey.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Teaching & Teacher Education