Monday, April 19, 2021

Shifting Focus


I find myself with time on my hands and so many stories to share.  When I first started this blog, I was generally keeping things in some sort of chronological order.  Along the way, I have drifted off into a variety of highways and byways, and the order may have gotten completely lost.  Not to worry - Grandma's lessons seem to have some relevance regardless of time or place.  So ---- I am choosing to shift my focus and tell some of my favorite stories, in no particular order.  I hope you find them enjoyable and maybe even enlightening.  Trigger Warning:  Not all of my stories have happy endings.  Life is like that, sad to say.

At the bottom of this posting, there should be a link to one chapter of the book I published in 1999, telling some of my earliest stories related to the use of Facilitated Communication, along with a listing of previous blog postings that featured some of the kids and adults who have been my teachers along the way.  

Quick summary:  When I started teaching in 1966, there were only two labels for the kids in our school:  Educable Mentally Retarded and Trainable Mentally Retarded.  There were no kids labeled "Learning Disabled" and no kids with autism, no kids who couldn't talk or who needed support with activities of daily living.  The former (LD) were either struggling in regular classrooms or mislabeled as EMR.  The latter (autism, non-speaking, or needing more support) were either at home or in a residential institution of some kind.  See?  We really have come quite a ways!

I earned a Master's degree in a pilot program for special education teachers, but got my real education from the kids who passed through my classrooms along the way.  It was not until 1992 that I was introduced to Facilitated Communication and my life was forever changed.  There are now several different methods being used to help non-speakers learn to communicate by means of spelling or typing, and they are all good.  Devices might include alphabet boards, letter stencils, iPads or laptops - and physical support may or may not be included as part of the program.  Whatever it takes, these kids have much to say and we have much to learn.

It has been a bumpy ride for all of us (FC, RPM, S2C - and all related programs that use spelling/typing).  The opposition is strong - just do a Google search or check out Wikipedia to see what I mean.   Keeping this brief, I see three basic issues:  (1) Sometimes there are reports of abuse: (2) Sometimes there are spiritual messages or reports of telepathy; and (3) It is hard for many to accept that these individuals might in fact be thinking, caring human beings capable of learning and feeling much like the rest of us.   I have butted heads with all of these reasons for rejecting the method.  The experiences  have not been pleasant.  I stand firm in my convictions.  These folks are for real.

I have worked with people who have autism, Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and a variety of genetic or chromosomal disorders.  The youngest to use FC with me was four years old and the oldest thus far was in her sixties.  Most important is knowing there are many, many people who can have a better quality of life - along with their families and teachers - if we can help them find a means of communication that works for them.  #PresumeCompetence - Always!

Grandma has learned a lot along the way, and continues to learn something new every day.  Let the stories begin!

To read a chapter from my book:   "Facilitated Communication Case Studies:  SEE US SMART!"

Featured "teachers" on my journey:

 L. (3)


Nick  B. (3)

N - Attitudes Hurt

Nick Guest Blog (#2)

Aaron G (2)

Aaron - Guest Blog (#2)

Roy (2)

Roy - Guest Blog (#1)

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Breaking News

My life during the current pandemic has slowed down to the point where I started digging through some very old material, thinking of starting a new string of blogs based on kids and adults who have entered my life, found their voice, and then moved on - for one reason or another. They have all taught me so much, and of course each comes with a unique and fascinating story. However, a recent flurry of brand new stories in the news has caused me to pause and give the rest of you some suggestions for your reading, "surfing," and viewing or listening pleasure.  I will also be updating my list of resources so that all of these exciting new entries are included.

 No doubt the story getting the most media attention right now is a new book by J.D.Handley and his son Jamie. They are making the rounds of Zoom interviews and I hope you can catch at least one of these.  J.D.'s earlier book, "How to End the Autism Epidemic" is now followed by "Underestimated: An Autism Miracle" - the story of Jamie finding his voice through spelling.   Exciting?   Here we go!

(In no particular order, and I have personally only been able to read a few of these):


 "Underestimated: An Autism Miracle" by J.D. Handley and Jamison Handley.   

"The Autistic Mind Finally Speaks: Letterboard Thoughts" by Gregory C. Tino

"Communication Alternatives in Autism: Perspectives on Typing and Spelling Approaches for the Nonspeaking" by Edlyn Vallejo Pena, editor.

"Leaders Around Me" by Edlyn Vallejo Pena, editor.

"I have Been Buried Under Years of Dust: A Memoir of Autism and Hope" by Valerie Gilpen and Emily Grodin

Fiction:   (But based on TRUE stories)

"Real" by Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard

"The Unsuspected Heroes" by Alex Marcoux

Blogs to visit: 

Important web sites:    Resources; videos, stories, advocacy - they have it all!      (Spelling to Communicate)

Autism and Communication Center at California Lutheran University

You Tube videos:  Search by names of individuals or "typing to communicate"

These new stories involve a variety of methods for typing, pointing, or spelling to communicate.  My personal reminder is that there are many, MANY people who could benefit from any one of these methods, all are valid, and the decision to try one or another might depend on what is available in your area.  Amazingly, the controversy continues and all are subject to criticism by the skeptics - even if the typer is independent with no physical touch at all.

How many stories will it take?

Do YOU have a story to tell?   I am always happy to include guest bloggers on my site.


Saturday, March 13, 2021