How I Letterboard
I want to write about my letterboarding and really explain how it works for me. When I first started letterboarding, it was so hard to stay focused. I think I could stay engaged for at most fifteen minutes before my body needed a break. That was particularly frustrating because I was so eager to communicate all that was on my mind. Imagine what would be your first words if language was taken away from you for one year. That would be memorable, no doubt, because relatively few of us will ever have to experience that. It’s not to say that I had anything brilliant to share – however, I had a lot stored up that I finally wanted to say! But my body wouldn’t cooperate. I had such a hard time keeping it together.
For one thing, I often have an urge to hit the wrong letter. I know I need to select a different letter, but my hand doesn’t communicate with my brain. It’s so frustrating I would want to quit, but I forced myself to continue. I would also get stuck on certain words that felt good to spell, like “yes” and “that.” Spelling them brings me comfort.
I prefer spelling with someone who can help me stay on target. Supporting me this way is key to me being able to get the most words out. As you can imagine, it takes a long time to write a single page of thoughts, so any strategies to keeping me on task are welcomed. It really is a labor of love to support me on the letterboard.
I wish it were possible for a stranger to be able to simply pick up a letterboard, and we could start talking back and forth with clarity! Unfortunately, that’s not an option for me and probably most people who rely on a letterboard because of a few factors. First, there’s a matter of personality. If you’re someone who is skeptical of my abilities, I am not going to work well with you. I can easily pick up on your vibe thanks to my synesthesia, and I don’t want that negative energy around me. Plus, I know you’re going to test me instead of supporting me. Who wants to go through that?
Second of all, there’s a matter of your comfort level with me. Any nervousness or weirdness will translate into negative energy too. And then I get nervous because you’re nervous, and my spelling falls to shit. This happens when you’re sad or pissed or anxious about something. For example, my former para was awesome at supporting me in English or science, but was a ball of nerves when it came to algebra. This resulted in her completely shutting down and being so stressed out that she would flare a hard yellow color. That went away when they switched in another para who loved math and enjoyed watching me figure out formulas.
Lastly, there’s the issue of what you want to get out of me. For example, one time my Spanish teacher hopped on the board trying to get an answer to a reading comprehension question, and her confidence and belief in my knowledge resulted in her being able to get a solid response. That happened pretty organically, and is rare. Instead, it takes time and a lot of opportunities for letterboarding to reach a lever of fluidness. That’s why I prefer that people start with short answers or choices. It takes the pressure off and reduces expectations to ones that are practical and realistic. I know sometimes people are eager for longer, more complex responses, but trust me when I assure you that we will get there.