It was with a heavy heart that I read about the last few days of Ariis Knight’s life at Peach Arch Hospital. I knew Ariis many years ago, having worked with her and her teachers for several years as her speech and language therapist in Delta school district, starting in her kindergarten year. I remember her as full of personality, an infectious smile, a sparkle in her eye. She was actually the first student I worked with who was learning to use a speech computer to express herself.
Because of her physical disability she couldn’t speak, but her computer with voice output, mounted on her wheelchair, could spell out words using morse code. By turning her head to the left “dit” or the right “dah” Ariis could spell out words to say.
Of course, communication with others involves so much more than saying words, with or without technology. It was very special to me to learn that Ariis had developed many ways to express herself with her friends and family in her adult years. But it is so true, as her brother stated, that it’s close friends and family that develop the skills in “interpreting”, and it takes time and close supportive relationships to do this.
I find it completely baffling that the medical staff at PAH could possibly conclude that Ariis had no need for communication support. Really? How did they assess this? It appears there is a lot of work needed in educating the medical community, not only in hospitals but also in our long-term care homes.
If there is any good result from this pandemic, I hope it is to be better informed of the needs of all special groups within our communities, so we can respond sensitively. Just as Mr. Tennant said, it is a matter of treating people with disabilities the same as everyone else.
My condolences to Ariis’ family and friends at this time. For me, there is great comfort that she did have a loving and supportive community at Semiahmoo House Society for so many years!
Sandra Lumb, White Rock