West Vancouver resident Rachel Loerch is hoping for a teachable moment after she went silent for a week following minor surgery.
A West Vancouver woman who went silent for a week following minor surgery is using her speechless interlude as an opportunity to share a message about how others communicate.
Rachel Loerch, who works as a community care worker for North Shore Disability Resource Centre, had palate surgery last month which was followed with some strict instructions from her doctor: In order for her body to heal, she couldn’t speak or use her throat for a full week.
“I’m very talkative. The first couple of days were really rough and frustrating, not because of the surgery, but because I had no control. There’s only so much you can write on a whiteboard or type,” said Loerch, who also works as an educational assistant in the West Vancouver school district. “I couldn’t keep up with the conversation.”
However, Loerch soon had a change of heart.
Through her care worker job at NSDRC, Loerch works with children and youth living with non-verbal autism – in many cases, kids who have never developed spoken language beyond a few words or utterances.
“I thought this was a good opportunity to see where they’re coming from. My job has been to help them work and communicate with the community – well, how is it being forced to work and communicate when you don’t communicate that way?” explained Loerch.
From June 9 to 16, Loerch didn’t utter a word. While she wasn’t working during that time, she’s hoping her prescribed vow of silence can help others better understand and show more empathy for those who communicate differently, whether they’re adults or youth.
There’s still plenty of ways to non-verbally communicate with someone, stressed Loerch, including using gestures and eye contact to build a foundation for language and interaction.
“I think there’s a lot of assumptions and a lack of understanding. Any larger behaviors or showing frustration is considered an issue with a disability, as opposed to it just being proper frustration. Our communities are not made for non-verbal people,” said Loerch. “We’re stuck trying to listen – we don’t use our sight, touch, or even just perception or intuition.”
Proud of you little sister, Love you!