Facilitated Communication (aka ‘FC’) is a system that allows Peter to tap out his words and thoughts letter by letter on a communication board, with the help of a trained facilitator. Being able communicate through FC allows Peter to engage with others in so many different ways – through his art, books, presentations and performing – and to lead a full and meaningful life…
On 3 December 2012 Peter and Betty 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
Peter was first introduced to Facilitated Communication at the age of 30. Until then, his family and everyone who knew him thought that he understood very little, because of his inability to speak.
Peter says: “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 he ‘spoke’ on the communication board for the first time, he was so excited he cried all the way home. “It was sheer relief to finally find someone who could speak to me after years in silence,” says Peter. “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 Betty’s time to cry – and not just because the first thing he said to her was “I love you Mum.” For Betty 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 Peter’s life is an understatement. He uses it in many different situations. It is his way to be part of the world…
Not long after Peter started using FC with the help of speech therapist Jane Remington-Gurney, he started writing poetry. His poems “Holding Hands” and “The Words are Sticky” express what it is like for him using Facilitated Communication, as does his poem about the QWERTY board. (click on the links to read the poems)