Peter free from silent world
FOR 30 years, Peter Rowe observed life. He never took part in conversations, he was only spoken to.
He never told anyone how he was feeling. Instead, he bottled his emotions until he ached.
No one knew there was an eloquent writer and brilliant artist inside.
The 45-year-old Little Mountain resident has Down Syndrome.
But it was not until 10 years ago, when he was introduced to facilitated communication, that he took hold of his personality with both hands and embraced it.
Peter’s mum Betty, 80, is his voice, translating as he spells every single word. It takes time, but it is time they have.
Facilitated communication originated in Melbourne when Rosemary Crossley met a 14-year-old girl, named Annie, in hospital. She taught her how to communicate and Annie went on to complete university.
Peter learned facilitated communication through a woman who learned from Rosemary.
“I didn’t go to the first meeting,” Betty said.
“They rang me up to say he had cried all the way back to the respite centre.”
Peter said it was sheer relief to “find someone who could speak to me after years in silence”.
Then it was Betty’s time to cry.
“I found almost a stranger, another person I hadn’t known,” she said.
“It was pretty hard. There were so many questions. What decisions had I made, what had we said to him that may have hurt him?”
But Betty’s fears were allayed with Peter’s first words, “I love you mum”.
“It was pretty hard for both of us. I already knew you, but you didn’t know me,” he said.
Peter learnt to write from Sesame Street and copying from books and magazines “and training myself for the day when I could use my knowledge and my gift for writing”.
It was not long after Peter started using FC with the help of speech therapist Jane Remington-Gurney that his poetry blossomed.
In June, 2009, he enrolled at university to further his creative writing. His first assignment was to write the opening chapter of a book.
“He wanted to write the first chapter of his life story,” Betty said.
Peter eventually deferred from uni to concentrate on his book. The extra time has also enabled him to put more time into his painting and he has written four more children’s books in his Josh the Robot series.
“I dedicate my work to the children who know but can’t tell, who hear but can’t speak, who receive information from the world around them but can’t sort it, and the children who are blessed with the gifts of a body in full working order.”