The ability to communicate with words, whether verbally or otherwise, is one of the greatest achievements of the human race. Everything we have achieved since then flows from that ability. If we presume a person cannot communicate we put limits on their entire existence.
A communication partner (facilitator) supports a non-verbal or minimally verbal person (facilitated communication user) to express themselves by pointing to letters on a laptop, an alphabet board and everything in between. Unlike some alternative communication methods, using the alphabet gives access to the wide world of letters and the ability to communicate complex thoughts.
Facilitated Communication Training (FCT), sometimes called FC Communication, was developed by Rosemary Crossley in Australia in the 1960s. It has helped many people break out of their silent prisons. A few like Jamie Burke have gone from FC to speech, while others have gone on to type without physical support. Some like Jenn Seybert have gone on to obtain postgraduate degrees. Many have written books. Most have become passionate advocates for the right to communicate for non-verbal people.
For more information on FC, please refer the Institute for Communication and Inclusion, University of Syracuse.
On Being Mute
by Chammi Rajapatirana
“Being mute is like having your brain gouged out. Autism/Apraxia took away my voice, and a world that equates muteness with stupidity took everything else.
Yes, it really is as if my brain were gouged out. It hurts so much I want to scream. Pouring all my pain into my voice, I want to scream till that searing sound fills my body, my soul, and my world shattering us all into a million fiery shrieking pieces.
As an experiment, just try keeping your mouth shut for a day. Just try keeping your mouth shut while they talk about you, telling your mother to put you away in an institution. You want to scream, “No, no, no” but you are mute.
Cursed pity is I am mute for a lifetime. A system that focused only on my disabilities deprived me of an education. Fortunately, a determined Mom salvaged me. She searched the world over until she found a way my voice could be as loud as yours.
There are many of you who still deny me my brain, but there are more of us now. More of us mute people who have found our voices through Facilitated Communication (FC) and our awesome voices insist that you deny our abilities no more. Denied my abilities, I can only get a job that will feed neither my body nor my soul. Recognize my abilities, give me a computer and, for now, a Facilitator and I will be able to write.
What could I write about? I could begin with traveler’s tales. Yes, traveler’s tales. Traveler’s tales, not about slogging through jungles or sailing across uncharted seas. I am a traveler ebulliently engaged on a unique journey between worlds. Between the quirky world of autism that I inhabit and the wearying world of “normal” that I would like to explore.
When you judge me by my muteness and deny me the power of my intellect, we all lose. Ignorance and the lack of assistive technology held us autistic people hostage in the past. How many people lived alone and abandoned, how many lives lost? Hear me now. Ignorance and prejudice still hold too many of us in that silent abyss.”