Cover Image: Unsilenced

Unsilenced

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Unsilenced is a memoir written by Howard Shane, a former Special Education teacher who spent one year teaching at the Belchertown State School - a horrendous institution for adults and children with disabilities in 1969. Shane was completely unprepared for both the conditions of the institution and the job he was expected to do there, and he pushed boundaries every single day he worked there. He developed the most beautiful relationships with his students and many of the staff who worked there, and also gave his students the gift of an education, something that most would not have received had he not fought for them. Additionally (and this is where Out of My Mind comes in), he started experimenting with low-tech and eventually high tech (at least for the time period) Augmented and Assisted Communication for two non-verbal students. These students went from desperately trying to communicate through blinking or frowns to being able to locate words on a clock-like template and trigger a light using a move of their wrist. For students who have lived in an institution for most of their lives and have no opportunity to have conversations with others, the attempts Shane made to help them communicate were likely the greatest gift these two students ever received. 

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read and review this book. I am currently searching for a copy of a book cited in this one, called I Raise My Eyes to Say Yes by Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer and Steven B. Kaplan. Ruth was actually one of the students Shane worked with and described in his book. It was published before I was born... so I'm still looking for a copy, but that would be such a cool book to read. Thanks to much to NetGalley and Brookes Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read and review this powerful book!
Was this review helpful?
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.   


this is an extremely powerful memoir.    I truly think everyone should read this.
Was this review helpful?
Unsilenced is an incredible memoir about a teacher who was able to go against the societal norm and see the children at Belchertown State School as children, capable of learning and growth. At a time when individuals with disabilities were shunned from society, Howard Shane went against the grain to support students. A memoir worthy of attention and a story that needs to be told.
Was this review helpful?
An absolutely fascinating book about a young, inexperienced teacher and his determination to teach his students, regardless of their abilities or the opinions of those who thought them not worth the bother.

I loved getting to know the different students as well as the adults that supported his work at the school. The views of some of the less supportive staff members are quite distressing, when you consider how scarily recently the events in this book took place.

This book would make a fascinating read for anyone working in education or studying the history of education and treatment of those with disabilities.
Was this review helpful?
In 1969, fresh out of college, self-described "wiseass" Howard Shane takes a teaching gig at Massachusetts's notorious Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded, and he immediately sets about improving the lives of his disabled students. Despite his relative inexperience as a teacher, he's always the smartest guy in the room with the latest ingenious idea. He always knows just what to do, and he's never afraid to stand up to the predictable objections of hidebound administrators. 

Despite his lack of humility, Howard Shane (later Dr. Shane) goes on to be a renowned pioneer of assistive communications devices for nonverbal people, especially those with cerebral palsy. The story he has to tell is engaging and uplifting, even if our hero (the author) is a little much.

I received an electronic pre-publication copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.
Was this review helpful?
This was a well written book with an eye opening story. At times it was heartbreaking and difficult to continue reading due to the information but the author was amazing at keeping the reader’s attention.
Was this review helpful?
What an incredible book this was. Howard Shane was a young man in his twenties, when he accepted a teaching position at Belchertown State School.  Howard had no idea what he was facing when he embarked on his teaching journey at Belchertown. Education for the disabled in the 1960’s is not even remotely similar to current times. Howard is stunned at the conditions in which the students live and how their education is carried out at the school.  He embarks on a teaching journey of improving the life and education of his students with innovative ideas and techniques.  I highly recommend this book. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance review copy in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
People with disabilities have so much to teach the rest of us, it brings tears to my eyes.  There is only praise for this story, written in unapologetic autobiographical form.  This book is as heartfelt and heart-warming as it is astounding, though, at the uncaring, unfeeling and horrific ways disabled people have been treated in the past, in institutions where they had been placed as being "better off," by societies' standards, in years gone by.  Years such as in the 1960's and 1970's.  

Thank God, the young and cocky Howard C. Shane came on board!  Ha, ha!  He did not know what he was getting into but he certainly swallowed a time or two, then landed solidly on his two feet, and became an effective teacher to his "core group" of "teachers"; an advocate for their rights in particular and the rights of people with disabilities, in general; and a champion innovator on their behalf.

From Ron, Ruth, Teddy, Dennis, Wendy, Barbara, Ed and others, of the Belchertown State School 'gang' of residents, Shane went from strength to strength to give them, and almost countless others, who had been silent, a means of communicating and becoming unsilenced.  His Expressor, which he and a couple others developed, was a marvel of ingenuity, instrumental in so doing.

Nowadays, there is still much "prejudice, bias, ignorance and fear" regarding disabilities people have, Mr. Shane states, but his hope is that they will continue to be eradicated.  He hopes caregivers, professionals, the general public and self-advocates will continue to champion and innovate with depth of compassion, empathy and sincere care.  

To finish up the book, there is an epilogue and  some Discussion Questions to help focus one's thoughts on the various issues spoken about throughout the memoir.

May freedom freely ring out for individuals with disabilities, to full potential.  Afterall, their ability counts.  This is likely the most valuable and important lesson to learn from this account.  Now to apply it in life as did Shane, whose humble beginnings as a teacher in a basement classroom continued to progress with all his wonderful helps over the years for the good and benefit of those who needed a boost to help themselves.  Well done!  This book gets my full vote of five stars!

                                                                  ~Eunice C., Reviewer/Blogger~

                                                                            September 2021

Disclaimer:  This is my honest opinion based on the review copy given by the publisher.

<img src="https://www.netgalley.com/badge/f6fd624ce81465997ca2d103ff9975a629a8a04c" width="80" height="80" alt="25 Book Reviews" title="25 Book Reviews"/>

<img src="https://www.netgalley.com/badge/04b37ae7f3ff846e213a00a515d0a1f507bf1833" width="80" height="80" alt="Reviews Published" title="Reviews Published"/>
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
Wow, what a remarkable journey Howard Shane has shared with readers! This proves how much of a positive difference one person can make on many people's lives. Together with other employees at Belchertown, he improved the quality of life for so many residents. His coordination with professors and engineers has created a life changing communication aid that was the starting either point for further technology development.
Although this book provided a lot of detail, and that may turn some readers off, it actually helped me feel like I was right there experiencing what was going on. 
I highly recommend this book.
Was this review helpful?
What an incredibly powerful memoir. I had so many emotions reading this one.

I'm heartbroken that so many were subject to such horrible treatment at places like Belchertown. So many lives that were shuttered away, so many voices lost. I'm also heartbroken that, despite all the progress society has made over the last few decades, society is often still inaccessible for many, and people still don't have access to the technology and resources they need.

This was also a fascinating and bittersweet glimpse at the state of accessibility in the late 1960s. Though I'm very familiar with modern AAC and switch access, I've admittedly never thought much about how communicating with switches worked prior to computers.

I kept imagining how things might have been different for his students if they had been born into a world in which communication was possible with just eye movements on a computer. For so many throughout history, this was never a possibility, and I'm saddened for those who never had the opportunities to communicate that modern technology has brought.

So many of these advancements are thanks to Shane and people like him who paved the way with their determination and creativity.

Despite the difficult nature of this memoir, Shane's words overwhelmingly filled me with a sense of hope for the future. Seeing how Shane was bothered by Ruth and Ron's communication needs, experimented with possible solutions based on his limited resources, and continued to dedicate his career to AAC strategies was so inspiring. This story is such a beautiful picture of advocacy and allyship.

I highly recommend this for anyone interested in accessibility and disability rights and advocacy.
Was this review helpful?
"It began in 1969, at a school with a name that's repellent to modern ears: 'Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded.' Located in the sleepy town of Belchertown, Massachusetts, it was a grim institution where children with a wide range of disabilities were warehoused for nearly a century. At that time, parents of children with disabilities had few alternatives when it came to raising and educating their children."

This fantastic memoir is an important addition to the history of people with disabilities. This is a story that MUST be told.

Howard Shane was only 22 when he took a teaching position at the Belchertown State School. Much has been written about the institutions where "disabled" people were warehoused in the past. However, this book is completely unlike any other.

Institutions such as the Belchertown State School were not places of learning as one would expect from the name. It's full name says much more about it: The Belchertown State School for the Feeble-minded. These were NOT places where hope or inspiration could be found. Instead, the residents were taught either only the basics of self-care, or were taught nothing at all.

When Howard Shane arrived to begin his teaching position, he had no idea that it would shape his entire future.

Determined to actually educate his students, who were the most severely physically disabled residents of the "school," Howard devised a way for the non-verbal students to actually communicate. This invention changed the lives of his students in untold ways.

His dedication to actually educating his students caused him to butt heads with the administration continuously. His views were seen as radical and his goals for his students were seen as unrealistic and a waste of time.

This book will grab your attention and is 100% unputdownable. Readers will find themselves rooting, not only for Howard Shane, but also for the students in his unconventional classroom.

This book is important. We need to remember the past and how people with disabilities were viewed and treated. This knowledge is essential so that society is never allowed to slip back into believing the uneducated views of the past.

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who believes that every person, despite their physical and mental disabilities, are important and deserve the chance to be happy and to live a fulfilling life.

I am very much hoping that Dr. Howard Shane decides to write a follow up to this memoir. I would be extremely interested in hearing more about his career and the devices he helped to create. In my view, Howard C. Shane is an exceptional human being and his life and work need to be celebrated.

I rate this book as 5+ OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I will be eagerly awaiting the next volume of his memoirs .
.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
Was this review helpful?