Humans, bumping into each other -- it's a good thing

Nov 12, 2019

CoughDrop's founder, Brian Whitmer, is more than just a guy with a bunch of fancy titles and techy degrees.

Brian and his family eat, drink, and breathe AAC every single day of their lives because Brian's oldest daughter has Rett Syndrome and uses AAC controlled by an eye-gaze device to communicate.

Recently, Brian shared some personal insights about his attitude toward Rett Syndrome and his vision of life for those with disabilities which has been inspired by the indomitable spirit of his daughter.


"Rett Syndrome has a lot of uncontrollable side effects," Brian said, "but the one we've refused to allow is what uninformed doctors told us in the beginning -- and we believed early on -- that she won't really be able to do much for herself and we should just focus on making her comfortable. We missed too many opportunities early on because we let that nonsense stick."

Since those early days, Brian and his family decided to find ways to help his daughter do everything possible.

That means doing science experiments, learning to play musical instruments, reading stories together, traveling to the beach, designing wheelchair incorporated Halloween costumes, speaking in church, texting people, and taking her own pictures to share on Instagram (she is a teenager after all).

The undercurrent of all of those things is that Brian and his family worked to find a way to have solid communication with his daughter.

It was not easy, especially at first. They spent years asking "yes" and "no" questions and she would look at their face to say yes and look away to say no. In time, they learned about augmentative and alternative communication and soon after that CoughDrop was born.

CoughDrop gave Brian's family a way to engage with each other and build relationships like they never had before.

He reminds everyone, "This is why we talk so much about how we are limiting people with disabilities, we've lived it firsthand, and the effects are acute. We need the research, but we also need minds to change."

Of course, Brian didn't stop with his family. He wanted his daughter to be able to interact with people in his neighborhood, church, extended family, school, and more. He is a stalwart communication partner and is always looking for opportunities to help his daughter grow -- and help others grow by having the chance to get to know her.

"Meaningful lives don't happen from being kept comfortable," he said. "They come from bumping into each other and smiling at and crying with each other. It will always take work to share that with others, and I hope we can all have the courage to push ourselves to do it a little more than we have in the past."

That is the true power of communication. It isn't about being able to answer test questions or prove that you have learned something.

Communication is about interacting with people -- it's about bumping into each other. What a beautiful thing.

Try robust augmentative and alternative communication for yourself. Register for a 2-month free trial of AAC here.

Melissa DeMoux

Former CoughDrop Director of Marketing and Support -- worked with AAC communicators & teams