Archive for August, 2012
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
Larry and I met the smiling Gretchen in the DC airport on one of our trips to promote the Presumption of Competence. The movie lit a fire in Gretchen to fan the flame of communication supports for a teen she clearly loves. I had the opportunity to meet Gretchen at the Autism Summer Institute in Concord, NH recently. She was there cheering Nick on with his team. Nick also had his Mom with him. Her persistence to arrange for Nick to type with me spoke volumes to me. The persistent nature of parents is critical to making kids push through to communicate. Nick is a blogger like Larry and I. Please take a look at Nick’s blog.
My conversation with Nick began with presenting him with the mostly geared for self-advocacy tee shirt, better suited to parade on legislative red carpets of political change. Nick, will you be the new leading man in Gerry Wurzburg’s professional myth-breaking promotion of her Presumption of Competence library?
Nick, I present you with the newest version of the Green Mountain Self Advocates tee shirt. Wear it proudly my friend for it represents the passing of the “No more R word” bill into law by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin last year. No longer will children in Vermont be referred to in derogatory language like the cruelest of all, retard. The new R word is respect.
For more information about The Respectful Language Law, check out my pal, Max Barrows, in his video on the Green Mountain Self Advocates website.
It is my mission to crumble institutional entrapment that continues to exist not only literally but in old thinking that people without typical voices have no desire for love or friendships. It is definitely untrue. Our need for friendship is no different than for neurotypical people; the key as with most things in life is interconnected. The key is communication. The other piece is open mindedness and opportunities to connect.
Photos from Tracy’s conversation with Nick:
Friday, August 10th, 2012
Once again, I had the opportunity to participate in the Autism Summer Institute. This year the gathering of friends further opened my mind to the power of relationships. Julia Bascom was wonderfully amazing in her keynote presentation: “The Loud Hands Project: Autistic Culture, Community and Resilience.” Julia challenges old perceptions of nonverbal communication and expression such as stimming. Please read her blog. Listening to the voices of self-advocates is critical to changing old attitudes. Attitudes are the real disability.
This is our time my friends and our voices now have the power to continue building momentum by joining forces to make the shift in attitude to one of respect for our communication and intelligence rather than eradicating our pesky behaviors. Think communication rather than how to cure my autism. We look to be listened to and respected for our intelligence. The common thread of humanity must not be snipped with pointed words of passing glance assumptions. It is the hope in all people to have at least one person who presumes that competence lives within. I am fortunate to have the support of my dream team lead by Guru Harvey.
Yesterday, I presented to Choice Academy in Barre, Vermont. Choice is an alternative high school. This was part of their staff training. The staff watched “Wretches and Jabberers” last week. I followed up with their staff yesterday beginning with an activity that illustrated the feelings associated with no reliable mode of communication. I presented my PowerPoint titled: “Presumption of Competence”. Of course, I referenced Bob Williams and the “cloak of incompetence” as well as Doug Biklen and the “presumption of competence” which he wrote about in his book, “Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone.”
During Q&A, the staff peppered me with thoughtful questions. My favorite question was: “How do you feel about the impact of technology on your communication?” My response was: “I am amazed by how far I have come; the most important part is people though. I need great support.” To expand upon that, I need respectful relationships rooted in the presumption of competence. The iPad is truly putting my communication on the smoothly rhythmic rails to present my thoughtful ideas. However, peaceful people are the key. My power to communicate is built on a solid foundation of trust, respect and presumption of competence. Not even the brainiacs of technologically-minded Apple can duplicate this. Only a peacefully grounded open-minded ally is capable. Neurodiversity needs to be celebrated. To do so one must have the power of open communication.
Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
Yesterday I had the opportunity to join many self- advocates at the Green Mountain Self Advocates (GMSA) board meeting. Joining our meeting were young representatives from the Vermont Workers’ Center. Sitting amongst us and having dialogue on topics that affect our lives, these young makers of positive change not only listened to our issues but pledged to continue to rise to walking the walk to ensure that all Vermonters have a voice. The Vermont Workers’ Center’s vision is to “Put People First.” To do so they have begun to canvas the state to open up dialogue with all Vermonters. The dialogue we are now having is a launch pad for change. Paramount to making change is including the stakeholders when inquiring what issues need to be addressed. The young twenty- something leaders have put people first by being instrumental in the passing of the Universal Healthcare Bill. One of the headlines following Governor Peter Shumlin’s signing of the bill into law read “Vermont, the little engine that could and should”. The Vermont Worker’s Center is a force of inclusive political change in Vermont. Quietly building momentum to push through heavy political obstacles, making democracy a reality for all people is the work of the Vermont Workers’ Center. Their model that leads them down the path of change is guided by the following mission: http://www.workerscenter.org/about-vermont-workers-center/mission. Their guiding principles are:
Universality, Equity, Accountability, Transparency and Participation.
I think all of these principles need to be practiced to have a true democracy. Let’s continue to be in partnership with grassroots organizations to communicate the need for affordable housing and the supports needed for many people to live lives of their choosing with training of facilitators as an important consideration in the budget.
As part of an exercise GMSA passed out rocks with messages they collected from Vermonters with disabilities to illustrate the weight of negative attitudes. Like one of GMSA’s pins states “Attitudes are the Real Disability.” My rock slogan is “What if people thought I have nothing to say?” My mission is to educate others to please take the time to listen. Typing is my path to propelling my communication up the trail to higher thinking. In the words of Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” My journey continues; please walk with me.