To read Part 1 of Amy’s story, please click here
The weekend that Marilyn Chadwick came to town, Amy invited several of her friends in the autistic community to come watch. Not to participate, just to watch Marilyn unlock Gentry’s voice. She wanted to plant her seed of hope in other families. What if their son or daughter could type too? What if their voices were unlocked too?
Amy is a co-founder of Special Nations at her church in Ponte Vedra. Special Nations was created to give special needs children and their families a place to worship that is more than just an hour or two of babysitting. They have cultivated an environment rich in love and also hope, and it seemed like a great place to expand the potential of facilitated communication. Some of the mothers who came to watch Gentry learn to type attend Special Nation and they agreed. For the next year Marilyn came every other month to teach families how to facilitate their child as they “freed their thoughts”.
Autistic children have listened and observed their whole lives. While they might know nothing of correct grammar, they are wise beyond their years. Their choice of words, for example “utter darkness” and “abyss” as they describe life before typing, are carefully thought out. And critics? As far as Amy is concerned, they can keep their criticism - she’s seen it first hand and there is nothing in the world that could convince her that it doesn’t work.
As she learned more about how to facilitate Gentry’s communication - and what other parents are taught - is that the hand on the elbow is actually acting as a restraint. The facilitator is, in fact, pulling against the autistic individual’s arm and offering resistance. Brain mapping shows us that the areas of our brain that require longer connectivity are missing in autistic brains, and short syntaxes are over connected. This creates impulse control issues. Put a different way, Gentry’s body only works in high gear. The problem is that when your body only works in high gear, your brain can’t learn. Amy is the first to say that she doesn’t understand all of this quite yet. But, rather than letting that thought discourage her - it gives her even more hope because it means that she still has more to learn.
Releasing your child’s voice is a serious thing. It transforms not just the life of the child, but also the families - and it can’t be left unsupported. Children who live in group homes need somebody there who is trained to facilitate. Children whose voice has been unlocked want to use it at school too. In fact, now they need school to teach them grammar! And they need parents and facilitators to help them wield their newfound power. But, more than that, they need adults in their life who believe in them and who will actively help them pursue their hopes and dreams.
Seeing this need for not only her daughter, but also her daughter’s friends, Amy is building Piece of Heart group home. The women who live there will live under the banner of assumed intelligence - and they will be treated like the young adults that they are. Another boy in the Special Nations group wants to “learn, learn, learn”. His parents are teachers - they’re starting a school specifically designed for children with autism who can type. The ripple effect of that first weekend with Marilyn is still unraveling. Amy took the hope that weekend gave her and invested it into the lives of the people in her community - and because of that, lives are being changed.