Facilitated Communication (‘FC’) is a system that allows me to tap out my words and thoughts letter by letter on a QWERTY communication board, with the help of a trained Facilitator who speaks my words as I tap them out. Being able communicate through FC has enabled me to engage and connect with others in so many different ways – through my art, books, presentations – and to lead a full and meaningful life…
On 3 December 2012 my Mum and I were invited to talk about Facilitated Communication on ABC Radio’s ‘Mornings with Annie Gaffney”. The program also included an interview with former Disability Services Queensland speech pathologist, Matthew Wilson, sharing his understanding and experiences of FC while working in the department.
Go to the 612ABC-Brisbane blog “Communication tool helps Peter find voice” to:
- Listen to Annie Gaffney’s interview with Peter and Betty
- Listen to the interview with Matthew Wilson
- read the Queensland State Government’s response
I was first introduced to Facilitated Communication in my early thirties. Until then, my family and everyone who knew me thought that I understood very little, because of my inability to speak
I was the guy sitting in the corner who supposedly had nothing to say and no understanding of what was going on …. I was bursting with thoughts but had no way of getting them out – you can’t imagine how frustrating that was…Communication is supposed to be a basic thing we all have a right to. It is the thing that helps define who you are.
When I ‘spoke’ on the communication board for the first time, I was so excited I cried all the way home. “It was sheer relief to finally find someone who could speak to me after years in silence,”. “To think that after all these years of not being able to say the words, I could now get across my messages and my needs, and everything else I had been denied for all those years. I could now talk!”
Then it was my Mum’s time to cry – and not just because the first thing I said to her was “I love you Mum.” For my Mum and the rest of the family it was like discovering a stranger, another person they hadn’t known.
It was pretty hard for both of us,” says Peter. “I already knew them, but they didn’t know me… I was the same person but the impact of me communicating certainly changed me and my relationships with others … Many people didn’t really know me. But they thought they knew what I should not be able to do because of the way I look … Many people misinterpret us based on appearances; Please don’t judge me by a label.”
To say that Facilitated Communication has changed my life is an understatement. I now use it in many different situations. It is my way to be part of the world.
Not long after I started using FC with the help of speech therapist Jane Remington-Gurney, I started writing poetry. My poems “Holding Hands” and “The Words are Sticky” express what it is like for me using Facilitated Communication, as does my poem about the QWERTY board. Read more of my poetry here.