Posts Tagged ‘advocacy’
Friday, September 6th, 2013
My fan Ling sent the following email to me and Larry. I received her permission to post it. Her sharing of her own communication challenges insightfully hits the nail on the head. I hope my fans gather your stories of hope together for our “More like you than not” movement. Larry hammered out his “more like you than not” message with his astounding literary power punches. I hope to continue sharing the mission of inclusion with my Communication Alliance and Green Mountain Self-Advocates. Our plan is coming together to join forces to bring a learning collaborative into our local Vermont schools. The ladder to inclusion is conquered by working together in unity.
Thank you so much for your advocacy work, the film and sharing your lives with me. I am a jabberer and I was able to relate to you in my own way having moved from NYC to Brazil, and learning Portuguese for the first time. I had moments when I languished in my inability to communicate, my thoughts backing up inside me with no way out. I stuck out, people acted differently with me and spoke to me like I was dumb. I even had some people react violently to me because I had a hard time communicating. In my own experiences I could find ways to relate to yours and those of the other autistics featured in the film.
I really did want to say thank you for opening up my eyes to your lives and I appreciate the new things I learned. I think your advocacy and lectures are so valuable to regular non-academic people like myself. I believe we are more similar than not. I feel kids would really benefit from your work, since they are the next generation of policy makers and they will shape the future perceptions of autism. I’m sure many teenage school kids can relate to your experiences. Most teenagers especially have moments where they feel misunderstood, ostracized, and in general “different”. Hopefully they can see their autistic peers differently and also advocate for inclusion. When I was in high school I had a chemistry teacher who had turrets syndrome. His hands would twitch, he would bite them, and occasionally he would yelp. He was never treated differently and all the kids saw him as a teacher first, who also happened to have Tourette’s. I think we jabberers have the capacity to improve our perceptions and behaviors so don’t give up on us.
Thank you and good luck with your advocacy!
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
The big typing of my friends, Kris and Scott, is a compelling argument for inclusion for all people. I met a young film maker, Adrian Esposito at a self- advocacy conference in Albany, NY last fall. Adrian made a film “We Can Shine-From Institutions to Independence.” Jeanette and I connected with Adrian and his Mom. My friends and I recently gathered to watch this history of moving to community life. Dayna and Jeanette looked nervously at each other like it was too much for my young typing pals and me to watch. I think it is important to see the horror Larry may know from the scars he bears. My heart is torn knowing my friend lived without communication. Larry is now a beaming beacon of light in his community. History is our lesson to cease isolation and open the door to inclusion.
Following are the voices of my typing buddies:
Kris: “The movie was heartbreaking at times for me, but important to see the contrast. Institutional life doesn’t allow personable characteristics to show. Working outside of the institution, in the community builds a person’s quality of life, allowing relationships to be built and equality to manifest.”
“I really had a great sense of relief that I was raised in a family with love and a mother who is my rock. I am graciously pleased that quality of life is a big part of our supports. I love that we can have a voice and know others are listening.”
Kris, Scott and I rock the self-advocacy movement as members of the Washington County Communication Alliance. Our mission statement is: “The Communication Alliance is a group of self-advocates who have communication challenges and type to express ourselves. We advocate for an individual’s right to communicate, for Quality of Life initiatives and for increased public awareness and education.” We are also members of Green Mountain Self-Advocates (GMSA). Let’s come together to rock the Inclusion Movement. The time is now my fans and allies.
Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
This has been a year of great progress for my work toward fading typing support. My biggest accomplishment is the changing of attitudes. At our last Green Mountain Self-Advocates meeting we went around the table to share our biggest joy or work accomplishment. Some gushed over their crop of sweet potatoes. I typed what is in my mind my own sweet garden of the flowering perennials of future seeds of change. Happy New Year to my friends and fans. I hope to continue cultivating inclusive attitudes. Join me on my mission to spread seed pods to blow out upon the fields of change.
Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
It was great times meeting up with old friends and meeting new ones in Long Beach, California at this year’s TASH conference with Master Trainers Harvey, Pascal, Marilyn, Darlene, Christi and Syracuse lovely grad students. We did a 4 hour training on communication, movement, research and message passing. I was able to type a word that Pascal was naïve to and message pass in front of a group of strangers…very cool. Our friend Sue Rubin and I took our history from early experiences and educated on the transforming power of communication. The World of autism opened up to possibilities only because we have a profoundly amazing way of thinking and the calm support we need to express our intelligent lessons of a life that is quirky but every bit as important as any other.
The sun took a rest behind the clouds. So what if sun wants to sleep; Larry and Tracy’s wit brought sunny smiles to the sun seekers. The Autism Society Inland Empire Communication Conference at the University of Redlands was a beautiful way to top off our sundae which California slim ladies likely request only at fat conscious yogurt shops. This Green Mountain Man prefers loaded with chunky hunks of yum from Vermont’s Ben & Jerry’s. Larry and I felt like Hollywood actors. Yogurt and ice cream do appear an odd combination but Larry and I felt the power of what our movie has done to open our world and that is a beautiful world of Inclusion. Thirty years ago the beautiful teens looked at me with passing glances of dismissiveness. Now all my charm is shining through to show the inner beauty of my wisdom and kind spirit. Tracy and Larry should make a new flavor for our fans to enjoy on a visit to Ben & Jerry’s. I am looking for fan ideas. Let’s hear it.
Thursday, November 29th, 2012
Over the past month my mind has been extremely focused on the power of inclusion. Inclusion is not mainstreaming. More than idealistic politically correctness it is celebrating our interconnectedness. Lessons of humanity lift our social fabric to magical tapestries where natural abilities may soar. Like Larry and I have communicated to diverse audiences in our travels, we are first men with intelligence. Like Larry says: “More like you than not.” Judge us not by our diagnosis. One of the best questions Larry and I were asked at the Chittenden South in-service in November was “What do you tell parents of kids with disabilities who oppose inclusion?” My response: “What kind of life are we talking about with seclusion and sameness and focused on disability? With that Larry had at Brandon and how did that work? Now that we are here, it’s due to being included. What hope is there without seeing us in the mix?”
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About Henry: Henry is an Autistic self-advocate who communicates using AAC (augmentative and alternative communication). He was denied the right to attend his neighborhood school. Henry is steadfast in his determination that all students must be presumed competent and have equal access to education with appropriate supports in their communities. Thousands of friends and advocates have written to show support for the rights of Henry, and others like him. Below is Tracy’s proclamation.
“I stand with Henry in his demand to see the intelligent mind within. I met Henry in my quest to change the World’s view of disability to recognizing that there is intelligence in all people, if only the Presumption of Competence is the paramount pulse coursing through the veins of educators. I stand with Henry because in Henry I see true grit. Henry is an amazingly resilient young activist. In my mind he is a leader taking down old barriers of discrimination, shifting our culture to one of seeing and believing in ability, rather than judging based on unreliable assessments. I stand on the platform of the typing train with you my pal.”
Category General Thoughts | Tags: Tags: advocacy, autism, change, communication, friendship, inclusion, independence, intelligence, presume competence, support,
Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
My name is Tracy Thresher. I grew up in Barre, Vermont. As a child, I struggled with no reliable way to communicate. I now live out my dream of traveling to other states to educate others on movement and communication differences. Primarily, I advocate to promote the Presumption of Competence. I have had great opportunities to advance in my career thanks to Harvey who is the Communication Specialist at Community Developmental Services which is part of Washington County Mental Health Services. Together, we have traveled to educate in the United States. In 2009, while filming the documentary “Wretches and Jabberers”, we traveled to Finland, Sri Lanka and Japan to join forces with other activists who are living on the periphery of society. Quietly ignored autism as a rule feels as though society as a whole is not interested in knowing we are intelligent.
I have been using supported typing since I met Bill and then Alan who worked for Washington County Mental Health. I was in my early twenties. Harvey came on board once Alan moved to Maine. I was 23. I am now 45.
My case manager, Rachel, is a great communication partner and well organized. Having her in my life is more important than I can express. She has been with me for nearly ten years. A fiery passion for helping people describes Rachel.
Without the diligent organized support of well-trained communication partner, Jeanette, I could not stand before you today. Thanks to my team of communication partners I have opportunities to educate others. I have moved from working at the back of the store, feeling like I had no future, to now being respected for my activism and my work as a Communication Consultant. I serve on the State of Vermont Autism Advisory and Planning Committee, the Vermont Communication Task Force, and the Washington County Communication Alliance. I am standing before you tonight with respect for the difficult work you face with making critical life altering decisions which affect the most vulnerable Vermonters. The little state of Vermont should serve as a leader in equity for their progress with their policies such as the Respectful Language Law and expansion of health insurance coverage for autism therapies .
My communication is paramount to my well-being and is key to my being an active citizen. I take my right to vote seriously and pay close attention to politics. I may appear to be a man shrouded by a cloak of incompetence but if you will take the time to listen to my typing you will understand I am intelligent.
The Presumption of Competence is the message I hope you take away today.
Thursday, October 18th, 2012
The AutCom group is one of many great thinkers. I am fortunate to have been in sunny Maryland to present my ideas and share my knowledge of this life. Being in the presence of good company is greatly freeing. For me good company is defined as people who are open to listening to painstakingly slow typing. I want to thank the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council for their financial support to make it possible for me to share my work with others. I was able to connect with other activists to work on promoting presumption of competence. From my perspective, I am able to share the progress that has been made in Vermont since I was in school. My life is much more my own because of my ability to communicate. Quietly ignored autism feels as though society as a whole is disinterested. AutCom is blissfully open-minded listening to people who have rather different ways than mainstream. The celebratory nature of AutCom is one I hope to promote in my work. Presumption of competence is the key to freely opening up dialogue with people. That is my platform to take to the world.
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:
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.
Monday, May 21st, 2012
The Green Mountain Self Advocates annual conference was this past May 14th and 15th. The theme of the conference was “Get Rid Of The “R” Word.” That is a very important mission this group has taken on. The word retarded must be rid of and the intelligence in each of us should be shown under a bright light.
I was part of two workshops that covered “I Have The Right to Communicate” and “You Too Can Be In The Movies”. The team work with my typing self-advocate friends really paid off and it was a great group presentation with each of us sharing our thoughts about our right to communicate and answer questions from the audience which was peppered with intelligent advocates. The group did a wonderful job and I am very proud of my partners in crime.
I had the wonderful opportunity to present with Mark Utter and Larry Bissonnette about making movies. Mark is trying to make a movie about his life; the name is “I am in here” and of course Larry and me are movie stars extraordinaire of “Wretches and Jabberers”. To be in the place of mentoring other self-advocates is very rewarding. Let’s join forces my friends to unveil the intelligence on the inside of us.