JOY

Have you ever felt that warmth in your heart when surrounded by people who just understand you? Have you felt it just like a gust of fresh air on your skin when it is soaking up the sun? Do you have those friends that without words can make you feel understood? This is what I have gained over the past 2 years and this is what I wish for all of you.

For those who don’t know me I am Alex LePape and I communicate using a letterboard. Oh and I have autism! I don’t lead with that anymore. Why you ask? Because it doesn’t matter. I am an 18 year old guy with a thirst for adventure and a love for learning. I am here today to share my journey of discovering friendship at 16 years old. Let me start by saying that connecting with people is something I have always loved and something my parents valued in our household. But it was limited by my difficulty communicating through speech. Enter the letterboard! I’ll spare you the details but let’s just say this 9” x 11” sheet of laminated cardboard changed everything. It redefined the meaning of friendship. It gave me infinite means of expression. It revealed my true self to the world. And it. Was. Epic.

I imagine what that sounds like to someone who has not seen the impact of the spelling to communicate method but it’s true. I love that I can tell people the truth from the perspective of someone that very much struggled to see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. But here I am!

In the past two years I have had the privilege of finding [camaraderie] with a group of strong like minded individuals. I have had the pleasure of getting to know them and have grown so much from what they have taught me about myself. I wanted to take the time to write a sort of appreciation post to say thank you to all the friends I have made and to share with all of you that friendship has no bounds.

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Autism Acceptance Month

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Hello to my lovely followers. It’s that time of year again, Autism awareness month or as we like to call it Autism Acceptance month. It goes without saying that I see tremendous value in taking time to spread both awareness and acceptance about autism. I am in the unique position of being an expert on this topic. I am after all… Autistic! I have the means to communicate with all of you and so I would like to take the opportunity to speak on what I hope you will take away from this month.

The truth is people like me are still wildly misunderstood by most. A vast history of doctors falsely categorizing us as unintelligent and incapable of meaningful thoughts, feelings, and ideas still haunts us. It is our job to change that and we have been working tirelessly to do that for the last two years. As with any great movement it starts with one person but it is fueled by the hard work and passion of many.

What I ask is that you be part of the movement that changes the way people define autism. Be part of the movement that shifts the mindset from the incapabilities of our minds to the endless possibilities of our minds. Help us change the conversations and tear down the stigmas that surround this disorder. Have confidence in our competence.

It is important that we move together towards a stronger more inclusive society. That we work to embrace and accept differences. Let’s take this opportunity to start believing that when given the necessary tools everyone has the power to achieve greatness. Let’s see this month as more than just awareness.

Let’s ACCEPT, ENCOURAGE, and EMPOWER.

My Barbershop

Barbershops are a staple in our communities, something we are all familiar with. But what you may not know is the depth of these establishments. They are referenced as early as 296 BC but the barbershops you are familiar with began to make their mark in the 19th century, specifically with the African American communities. The shops provided opportunities for work, giving black men the chance to be entrepreneurs but it doubled as a place to gather. And that is what I am here to talk about with you.

During a time when society had little respect for the black community they chose to find strength in community with one another. They gathered through shared experience and grew stronger by connecting with each other. The shops were a safe place. A place they felt heard. I can’t begin to understand the fear they experienced on a daily basis but I can fully relate to the need to feel heard.

The Gang got together as we do every month and explored this very topic. It got me thinking that Tom and Emily [our communication partners] have allowed us to create our own sort of barbershop. We all came together through the shared experience of finding our voice. We gather as friends to talk, to listen, and to share ideas. We have seen first hand the strength that comes from connecting with others.

My dear friend Alex shared with us something powerful…”Groups are designed by human nature. We are not meant to be alone”. This resonated with me deeply. We are NOT created to be alone. We have an innate desire to connect. Look throughout history and you will see this time and time again.

I will close my thoughts by sharing my truth. My life is made full by my relationships with others and I am forever grateful for Alex, Nasser, Sarah, Kevin, and Chris for being my barbershop.

Bell Let’s Talk

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day.

Bell Let’s Talk is a campaign run by Bell Canada to help end the stigma surrounding mental health, and to raise awareness and funds for mental health initiatives. Brian and some of his friends live with anxiety every day of their lives. When they learned about Bell Let’s Talk Day, they wanted to share their stories with you.

 

STRESS HAS RULED MY LIFE FOR YEARS. I CANNOT GO FOR MINUTES WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT WHAT IS NEXT IN MY SCHEDULE. I LIKE TO GO TO THE MOVIES BUT I CANNOT FIGHT THROUGH THE ANXIETY OF WHAT IS NEXT. I KNOW WHAT IS SCHEDULED BUT MY BODY WON’T LET ME STORE THE STRESS IN HIDDEN CONTAINERS IN MY MIND. THIS IS NOT TO SOLICIT YOUR PITY. I WANT TO SHARE THIS SO OTHERS WILL MAKE SURE THERE IS NO ONE LIVING ALONE WITH THIS FIGHT. 

-K

A: I want you to take a moment and step back. Look at the space you are in.

N: The walls may feel like they are closing in but they are not.

A: They are just material that you can tear down. So put your arms out at your sides.

N: You are strong. You are capable. You are here for a reason.

A: Take all the strength you have and push down those walls.

N: Now look at the opportunities in front of you. You are limited by nothing.

A: The only thing stopping you is you.

A: So be careful and be brave. It’s a big beautiful world out there. And it’s waiting for you.

-A & N

HELLO TO EVERYONE! MY NAME IS BRIAN AND I HAVE ANXIETY. I BATTLE IT DAILY TO THE POINT WHERE I AM EXHAUSTED. IT CONTROLS EVERY PART OF MY LIFE. I NEED A SCHEDULE TO KEEP IT CONTAINED. EVEN THAT DOESN’T ALWAYS HELP AS MUCH AS MUCH AS I’D LIKE IT TO. I WANT YOU ALL TO KNOW THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO FIGHT ALONE. YOU HAVE NO REASON TO INTERNALIZE YOUR DEMONS. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU AND WANT THE BEST FOR YOU. YOU ARE STRONG. YOU MATTER.

Spelling to Communicate Info Session

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Next Monday, January 28th, the Inside Voice program will be hosting a Spelling to Communicate Info Session for anyone interested in learning more about the method. Tom Foti and Emily Pinto will deliver a detailed presentation about the Spelling to Communicate method. Participants will be able to see the method in action once the presentation is completed.

Seats are limited, so contact insidevoicehq@gmail.com today to reserve your spot!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone! What a year it has been. I take this time each year to sit back and reflect on what the past 12 months have brought. As with any year, 2018 had its ups and downs. But as always we emerge stronger. We are given an opportunity each new year to start fresh. To set new goals, to plan new adventures, to embark on new challenges, and to focus on self improvement. We are made to feel that our slate is wiped clean and we can start over! I am fascinated by this concept. With one stroke of midnight our vision for the future is given a new sparkle! I challenge you to take that sparkle passed midnight. Weave it into every new day. Sparkle through your ups and downs and cease the fresh start. Comment below how you sparkled in 2018.

-Brian

Against the Current

As communication partners, friends, and loved ones, we will never fully grasp how hard it is for our non speaking friends to spell their thoughts and beliefs.

But we can always gain a better understanding from them.

Kevin –  one of Brian’s friends and a guest writer of several posts here on Speak Without A Voice – shared his experience with us:

SPELLING BECAME [A] *NONDECLARATIVE [MEMORY]. IT WAS A SLOW BURN AS YOU KNOW. BUT IT WAS WORTH THE SCENIC ROUTE. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR MY SIDE OF SPELLING? I CAN’T SPEAK FOR EVERYONE BUT IN MY MIND SPELLING IS LIKE GOING AGAINST THE CURRENT. I HAVE LEARNED HOW TO FIGHT AGAINST IT. BUT THE CURRENT IS STRONGER ON SOME DAYS. BUT I CAN STILL BEAT IT WITH WILLPOWER.

 

(*a nondeclarative memory is a memory that is done unconsciously, like throwing a ball or walking)