On Friday afternoon, January 24, 2014, an extraordinary event occurred when a 21st Century technology helped expand the world a bit for four people affected by autism that struggle daily to communicate and find acceptance in the “normal” world.
For the first time, nonverbal autistic typers Todd Washburne, age 47, Joe Kelly, almost 19, Josh Berkau, age 13, and John Smyth, age 19, along with their support facilitators Gloria Washburne, Angie Brown, music therapist Casey DePriest, and John’s dad Jim Smyth, the co-founder of Saved By Typing who organized and hosted the event, joined together for a Skype video conference call to share their amazing insights and mutual support.
A good time was had by all! The typers were delighted with the amazing technology, considered as science fiction just a few years ago, that now gives them the ability to come together and share their lives, stories, and experiences dealing with the “verbal” world.
Todd Washburne Shares and Typers Respond
At first, the group talked about Todd’s experience of 39 years in isolation until he found his voice with the help of Facilitated Communication. They went on to discuss the things they each are doing or would like to do, including the pros and cons of typing with their moms, and the opportunity to spread the word and save others from the fate of long term isolation. Every one of them celebrated this ability to communicate when circumstances and personal challenges tend to isolate and disconnect them.
About his years in isolation imposed by “experts,” Todd typed that “the real world (is) so lost to us and teachers all thought I was dumb and not able until age 39.” He learned to read at age 13 when an “unusual teacher” who was willing to take the time to see his potential began to instruct him using the Distar Reading Program. “He actually believed I could do it and the plan was just what I needed,” Todd typed. The typers all recognized they could have been in the same circumstance as Todd and asked how he was able to hold on for 39 long years! Todd explained, “I found this was the hard part and we are still paying the price.”
The other typers all acclaimed Todd for his strength to be present and be willing to ultimately get a voice when someone who knew and cared to help arrived. The other typers, who were all clearly affected by his touching story, declared that as an “acquired witness to inspiration, we admire you, Todd. In any book, you are a hero.” Each recognized that Todd’s circumstances took them to “a new level of appreciation.”
From there, the conversation turned to their newly-found ability to communicate and work together from afar. “Let’s miles apart make sure no one else goes through this. We are uniting to avoid these imprisonments.”
The conversation then went on to an interesting topic, typing with their mothers. Todd, and then each of the other typers, admitted some challenges to typing with their moms. Todd advised, “I think you should type with your moms because moms make the best advocates. Never when family is near but lots when alone.”
In response, John Smyth explained, “usually we are loving other girls wanting another relationship. …Typing takes us into Mom’s boy territory. Each of us is normal and healthy in most respects. Time to share that.”
The group saluted 13 year old Josh for acquiring a voice and being the youngest typer on the call. They talked about their reading, school work and desires.
Todd’s final advice on this call was, “what I recommend is to run to make your life as normal as possible and recommend using all communication you can find.”
The Future of SBT Video Conference Calls
More video conference calls like this one are planned for the near future and all are welcome to join this growing community of formerly isolated extraordinary individuals from across the country. If you, or someone you know, might like to participate in one of these informal meet-ups, send us an email to let us know you’re out there.
Skype technology allows up to 25 participants in a video conference call, but we will probably limit ours to 10 at a time due to the complexity of the calls. Still, there’s plenty of room for you to join us and share your story with others that know exactly what you are going through.
For information about how to participate in one of these get-togethers, read Join a Skype Video Conference Call.
Join Us in a Joyous Celebration of Communication
Additionally, Saved By Typing helps connect families dealing with autism through their monthly Celebrations of Communication, which are held in the Indianapolis area on the third Saturday of each month. Nonverbal autistic individuals, their families and facilitators can meet and communication with one another face-to-face in a relaxed, accepting environment. These events provide an environment in which autism is treated with respect and acceptance, creating a uniquely comfortable settings for social interaction and friendship.
For more information about these joyful get-togethers, click here. We look forward to meeting you.