AAC Awareness Month

Communication is something most of you probably take for granted. So this month I have a challenge for you: can you choose an hour of family time to communicate in any way except spoken speech? If you want to make it a bit trickier, can you do this without using pen and paper?

For me, and hundreds like me, this is my reality.  This is AAC – Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

If you try my challenge in public, I can guarantee that people will view you differently.  If you are a child most people will assume you only have the understanding of a toddler, if you are an adult I expect most people avoid talking to you at all.

This month I am continuing to try to break down the assumptions that yoke non-verbal children.  Yesterday, I spoke to 300 trainee teachers at the University of the West of England, co-presenting with Sarah for Teach Us Too.  My prayer is that my book and Teach Us Too will make a difference so that all children are taught to read and write regardless of their label.

As you will have discovered if you did my challenge, literacy is the key to being able to say exactly what you want.  For non-verbal children literacy is the key to unlocking our voice.

In the comments below let me know how you got on with my challenge.

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Sir Michael – the Master Storyteller

Yesterday, my sisters and I had the privilege of seeing our names in a book – and no, I haven’t written another book already!  Back in April this year Sir Michael Morpurgo wrote and asked if he could dedicate his book, Grandpa Christmas to the three of us – if that was ok with us.  Of all the questions I have been asked, this was the easiest to answer.  The unbridled joy as my sisters and I danced to the equal honour; not just for me with them tagging along, but all of us on the page sharing the moment together.

Today, my literary hero turns the grand age of 75.  I haven’t got a book to offer him, so instead I have written him this poem as a token of my love and admiration for my friend, who has taught me so much.

Happy birthday Sir Michael!

 

Sir Michael – the Master Storyteller

Painting with words on the canvas of my mind,

Scenes from your dreams become my visions alive,

Landscapes explored, travelling historical times,

Tales of animals’ gentle spirits released,

Horrors of war from the champion of peace,

My master of stories your friendship bequeathed.

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Busy Summer

Long time, no see! What have I been up to and where have I been? Sometimes no news is good news, but in my case no news means busy news.

Since Eye Can Write was published in July I have had a lot of publicity, articles and letters to write. Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to write a review of my book, I have read them all and I apologise to anyone who stayed up late as they couldn’t put it down! If you haven’t left a review yet, it is never too late to help me reach my target of 200 Amazon reviews by Christmas.

At the end of July I was honoured to speak at the 1Voice annual residential weekend on story telling. As well as a wonderful opportunity for me to meet other young people who use AAC to communicate, it was just as important for my sisters to know that there are other siblings like them.

But of course the highlight of the summer was two family holidays near the beach, made all the more special this year as my health has not been brilliant.

What next? Watch this space for more (frequent) updates.

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Global Disability Summit

Did you know that globally an estimated one billion people have a disability, of which 800 million live in developing countries. Sadly, in these countries disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty and people often face significant barriers that prevent them from participating fully in society, including getting a quality education and employment.

This week I am honoured to be an ambassador for the Department for International Development, calling for all people with disabilities have equal access to education.  A world where disabled people are valued members of society. A world where people with disabilities are not underestimated. A world where all children are taught to read and write regardless of their label.

Watch the film they made of me here:

Find out about my charity, Teach Us Too here, and my book is available here

 

 

 

 

 

Awesome Radio 2

Awesome to be invited onto Radio 2 this morning, huge thanks to Chris Evans for having me and for mentioning my book. Grooving away to tunes by Rick Astley, and listening to the banter between James Nesbitt, Gemma Arterton and Laura Whitmore was great fun.

Listen here at 2:40:50

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Laudable Launch

Sometimes attempts to describe events can’t do them justice. The launch of Eye Can Write and Teach Us Too was one such evening – enjoyable, unforgettable, magical, fun.  Surrounded by my family, friends and supporters my book was loved into existence and set free to the public.

When I wanted to launch my book with a prayer I had no idea the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby would be able to come! It was a huge honour to welcome him and hear his prayer, and I am very grateful he squeezed me into his busy schedule.  But he wasn’t my only special guest. Before the event began I witnessed the bizarre scenario of my mother introducing Archbishop Justin to Sir Michael Morpurgo.

Sir Michael’s reading of an extract of my book was captivating, the room stilled as he brought my words to life. Bantering with him during questions and answers was a lot of fun.  My beautiful sister, Susannah, read my speech and poem with a poise beyond her nine years, and stunned the room in the process. Thursday was not just about my book and Sarah did a wonderful introduction to all that we stand for in Teach Us Too.

My book is available on Amazon and in all good book stores

You can find out more about my charity here: www.teachustoo.org.uk

Below are some clips from the launch evening.

D-Day for Eye Can Write

12th July; this date has been highlighted on the calendar since January, before I handed in the first manuscript.  And now it is here – D-day for my book, Eye Can Write.                               
me and my book

At the weekend an extract from the book was featured in the Mail on Sunday, and on Monday there was an article about me and my book in the Daily Express.

Today you can see me on ITV’s This Morning (broadcast from 10.30-12.30) chatting to Holly and Phil about my book and the launch of my charity Teach Us Too, which is very exciting.  Now off to Channel 5 news.

This evening my book and charity are launched at Waterstones Piccadilly. I am honoured to be joined by Archbishop Justin, who will say a prayer and Sir Michael Morpurgo who will read an extract from my book.  If you didn’t manage to get a ticket before they sold out, we are hoping to record the event.

I hope you enjoy reading my book!

 

Double Launch

You wait for a year, then two launches come at once!

After a year’s hard work, my book is finally here.  And Teach Us Too is ready to be launched as a charity.

Almost exactly a year ago, while my friends were cavorting in post SATs frivolity, I was sat at home starting my book.  Optimistically, I envisioned completing the book by the end of that summer term, writing stories my mother had told me about my early life in her voice, and writing my story in my voice.  By July I had made some progress with my parts, had attempted and failed to write in my mother’s more colloquial voice, but was nowhere near completion.  So, in the summer holidays, in between all the fun and no work on holiday, I continued my story… but it still wasn’t finished.

Into the September term with the start of secondary school, and more school work, more homework, but still snatches of time for my book.  In the meantime, Mummy had reluctantly agreed to write the introduction, which she was mostly doing in my van parked in the secondary school car park – doubling up my care, so I could go to school.  Just before Christmas I completed my story, or so I thought.  Until I got it back from the editors.  Again… and again… and again.

So here it is.

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Do come along to the launch, at Waterstones Piccadilly, if you can.  Amazingly, Michael Morpurgo is coming all the way from Devon to read an extract from the book, so it is anticipated that tickets will fill up fast.  Tickets are available here.

If you can’t make the launch, you can buy my book online or pre-order my book here.

My prayer is that my book will challenge assumptions based on outward appearances; something I have continued to campaign about – that all children should be taught to read and write regardless of their label.  To further this, I am giving all my proceeds from my book to the charity Teach Us Too, which will be launched at the same event.

I hope to see you there!

FestABLE

On Saturday I went to FestABLE, the inaugural National Festival of Specialist Learning, and co-presented a session on Teach Us Too.  Meeting with others trying to raise the standards in special schools in a collaborative way is so important to affect change for those in special education.

Throughout the day I met professionals and parents putting the educational needs of the child first, but the person I enjoyed meeting the most was in a wheelchair and had just completed a philosophy degree.  Inspired by my message, he endorsed my desire for all children to be taught to read and write regardless of their label.  So I left the festival with renewed strength for the task ahead and new hope for the future.

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Second Chance Meeting

Sometimes, before I could spell everything I wanted to say, I would meet someone in a one-off situation and be frustrated by my inability to chat with them; relying instead on looking them in the eye and smiling.  In September 2014, six months prior to spelling, I met one such person.  Here we are at the time:

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Never did I dream that I would get an opportunity to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury again.  But, yesterday, I was invited to Lambeth Palace for a glorious late afternoon meeting, and was able to have an interesting and in-depth discussion with the Archbishop about a range of topics close to my heart.  More wonderful still, all my family could come with me.

Joining the community for evening prayer in the Crypt was a beautiful end to an awesome day.

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