Nonverbal Autistic’s Brother Shows Support by “Racing for a Voice”

Joey and Clayton Tharpe are loving brothers. Unfortunately, as much as he wanted to, for 27 years Clayton was unable to tell his brother that he loved him. The reason for this is that Clayton has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that made him unable to speak or communicate in any effective way with his family or the outside world. He is one of the thousands of nonverbal autistic individuals worldwide who must cope with this most debilitating type of ASD. At least he was, until Clayton found his voice in January of 2015 with Supported Typing, also known as Facilitated Communication (FC,) and has been on an incredible journey ever since.

Supported Typing is a form of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) in which people with disabilities and communication impairments express themselves by pointing (e.g. at pictures, letters, or objects) and, more commonly, by typing (e.g. on a computer or tablet keyboard). The method involves a communication partner who may provide emotional encouragement, communication supports (e.g., monitoring to make sure the person looks at the keyboard and checks for typographical errors,) and a variety of physical supports. The person who provides support for communication is called a facilitator or communication support person. A facilitator can be a teacher or other professional, a family member or a friend. The person who receives the support is called the communication aid user, FC User, or simply “typer”.

To honor the amazing efforts of his brother as he continues to improve and expand on his communication skills, Saved By Typing is proud to sponsor Joey’s participation in this year’s IRONMAN Louisville Triathalon in October to raise funds in support of the nonverbal autistic community.

“This October I will be racing in IRONMAN Louisville with one cause in mind. That cause is for the children of God all across the world who have not yet found their voice or are learning that they have an incredibly powerful voice. Saved By Typing is an organization that helps empower people who are nonverbal to interact and communicate via supported typing. People who have not been able to communicate with the world for a majority of their lives are enabled to do so through supported typing, which is used at almost every Saved By Typing event.”

What is an IRONMAN Triathalon?

For those who don’t know about it, the IRONMAN Triathalon is an extreme world-class 140.6-mile race widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. An IRONMAN consists of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bicycle ride, then finished with a grueling 26.22 mile marathon run, all without a break.

IRONMAN Triathalons are run worldwide, and participants range from world-class professional athletes to amateurs racing for the first time. Racers must complete the course in under 17 hours to be designated an Ironman. Watch this video of the 2016 IRONMAN Louisville to see what it’s all about.

Visit the IRONMAN Louisville website for more information.

Racing for a Cause

Joey will be running the IRONMAN as a fundraising effort called Racing for a Voice in support of Saved By Typing’s efforts to provide continuing training and improved educational opportunities to the nonverbal autistic community.

Saved by typing is an organization that helps empower people who are nonverbal to interact and communicate via supported typing. People who have not been able to communicate with the world for a majority of their lives are enabled to do so through supported typing, which is used at almost every saved by typing event…

“I will never forget the day at the Carmel (IN) library on that winter day in January where the first words he typed via his ipad spelled out “Thank you for not giving up on me Mom”. Saved by Typing offers an incredible community of support for people that are communicating via supported typing. It has been instrumental in my brother’s journey of communicating with the world around him, and he would not be where he is today without their help.”

Funds raised through Joey’s extraordinary efforts will be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • FC training for typers, their families and coaches to help improve their communication skills. During the ongoing FC training process, SBT emphasizes the imperative that facilitators and FC users maintain consistency in adhering to standards of best practice developed by Syracuse University’s Institute on Communication & Inclusion, one of the foremost FC Research facilities in the US.
  • Provide support for life-changing assistance through medical research, education, and direct aid to vulnerable populations by organizations like the Hussman Foundation and the Wellspring Guild.
  • Local area education and training for coaches, facilitators, and trainers in an effort to increase their skill levels and increase the number of qualified professionals.
  • Creating and developing a database to:
    • Report and record individual typers’ improvement
    • Document the overall substantial, quantitative improvement of typers’ skills
    • Provide coaches and trainers with real-time support across typers’ living platforms (e.g. school, home, work, social environments).
    • Offer a platform to insurance companies, Government agencies, and school systems to help them interpret and understand what is accomplished with the time and money they have invested.

“I will be training and racing in the ironman to help raise awareness and funds for this incredible organization. There are so many people out there who need to be heard and will be heard. I hope that I can play a small part in making that happen.

Joey’s goal for this fundraiser is $10,000; he has already received over $1,400 in donations. If you would like to support his efforts, click the button to make a donation to Racing for a Voice.

We are off to a great start! I announced at the Saved by Typing event last weekend that I will be raising money for their organization and they were excited. I asked Clayton if he thought I would be able to raise the money and complete the race and he typed “Yes, I know you can.” His vote of confidence will be in the back of my mind all throughout training this year. Cant wait until October.”

We will keep you updated on Joey’s adventure in future poss over the coming weeks and months leading up to the race in Louisville on October 15th. We will also discuss other fundraising methods you can use if you wish to support this effort.