Posts Tagged ‘communication’
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.
Monday, September 10th, 2012
Our trip to Arizona was like an oasis. Kind of like a camel, I felt my backpack containing my hydrating Qwerty iPad is my stored thirst quenching canteen, not only to my mind but also to the professionals at the Directors Institute. The educators lapped up our presentation on “All People Want Communication” like it was most refreshing to hear the poetic typing of Larry and the true grit Green Mountain dry wit of Tracy.
While in Arizona, I also had the opportunity to visit a progressive communication school. I loved my trip to the Assuming Competence Today (ACT) School. It was my turn to lap up top shelf pitchers of Presumption of Competence, cleansing my mind of withered old memories of seriously inept hard knock schools that Larry and I survived. It is like cooling mountain pure spring water to be in the presence of wonderfully out-of-the-box thinkers like the parents and educators that Larry and I met at ACT. My mind soared like a liberated eagle to think my hard-knock-lacking-in-communication-filled-with-idle-time so-called education is now my way to draw from the well of justice. My mission is for my life to be a beacon of light to parents and children. The thing is the kids are my beam of light leading me to the oasis I sought as a lonely misunderstood boy.
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.