I believe the tide is turning in the way we view autism and handle its challenges. Autistic self-advocates have been leading the way for some time in promoting understanding and acceptance. Their efforts are slowly but surely starting to catch on with parents and some professionals who have embraced notions of neurodiversity and the presumption of competence. These parents and professionals have found a new path that is exceedingly more rewarding than the old path merely treating autism as disease and developmental delay. They have chosen for their children alternative methods of education and communication that respect and work with their child’s unique autistic neurology.
Today Philip typed this to me: I want to partner with my autistic friends to write a blog about autism. It should be many voices.
What a delight this brought my heart! Philip can speak through his fingers. He has friends. He wants to work together with them. Together with them, he wants to write about autism and teach the world what it is really like! Haha- isn't this the real Autism Speaks! Only a few short years ago, I did not think this could be possible! At the time I had never met a nonverbal child who could communicate beyond simple requests. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what I know today. Today I know the truth. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who were once thought to be severely cognitively impaired and voiceless, who can actually learn, think deeply, and now express themselves on paper, stencils, letterboards, keyboards, tablets, and computers. The number of people is growing everyday, but many more still need to be reached. They need dedicated parents, teachers, and supporters to teach them at their true level of understanding and help accommodate their communication as needed. This communication is not a cure for autism, but the ability to be heard, understood, and affect one's own destiny brings serenity and alleviates some frustration. Learning to communicate is a process that takes time and requires hard work and perseverance on the part of both the child and support network. It can be very trying at times! Thankfully there is an online community of families and allies who support, encourage, help, and celebrate one another in their journeys of unlocking their children’s voices. There is good camaraderie among members and dialogue is overwhelmingly hopeful and positive. It is a marvelous thing and nothing short of revolutionary.
This month this blog will feature the writings of many of these Autistic children and adults who communicate through spelled or typed words. Many have learned through well replicated techniques such as Rapid Prompting Method (RPM), Facilitated Communication (FC), or various other Augmentative and Alternative Communications systems (AAC). A few parents even discovered their own particular technique through intuition and ingenuity. The method does not matter as long as it works. What matters most is empowering each person and their families through real and effective communication. This month, Autism Acceptance/ Awareness Month, we band together as a community of Autistic people, families, professionals, and allies to express ourselves in a beautiful array of voices, each with its own unique personality and experience. The goal of this month is not simply awareness so we can tolerate one another. The goal is acceptance, so that by each person’s inclusion and appreciation, our world is enhanced and each of our lives enriched by the diversity of thoughts and experiences working together.
MY LIFE AS A GIRL WITH AUTISM
I HAVE A VOICE AS LOUD AS A LION’S ROAR.
IT IS DEEP DOWN IN ME LIKE A BIRD AFRAID TO LEAVE ITS NEST FOR THE FIRST TIME.
NEITHER TIME OR LUCK WILL WAKE THIS SLEEPING DRAGON,
BUT MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR HAS ARRIVED TO RESCUE THIS PRINCESS IN DISTRESS.
RPM HAS AWAKENED MY VOICE LIKE SLEEPING BEAUTY WAKING FROM HER SLUMBER. ALL MY WORDS LEAVE MY BRAIN LIKE A WATERFALL FLOWING INTO MY FINGER ONTO THE THICK BLACK STENCIL BOARDS.
SUDDENLY MY HEART FEELS LIKE A LITTLE KID ON CHRISTMAS.
MY VOICE IS AS IMPORTANT AS A MEANINGFUL POP SONG THE WORLD FALLS IN LOVE WITH.
THIS IS ME AND THESE ARE MY WORDS LOUDER AND MORE FEROCIOUS THAN EVER.
TIFFANY JOY BROSKOSKIE
(RPM for 1 year)
Mom Debbie and Tiffany