Remembrance Day War Horse

What an incredibly moving and highly charged performance of War Horse yesterday in London. What a way to commemorate 100 years after the armistice. As the bells tolled and the poppies fell on the cast, we stood to remember all that the play stood for; the horror, terror and waste; but also our common humanity and hope in the face of adversity.

Image from War Horse Facebook page

In This Light

Before this year I hadn’t been to a book launch – now I’ve  been to two in three months! On Thursday I was honoured to attend the launch of In This Light, a book compiled of thoughts for Christmas by the archbishop of Canterbury and 49 other contributors (including a small piece from me).

Reading my copy of the book has been inspiring – stories and messages of kindness, hope and peace abound within its pages from a diverse spectrum of people ranging from celebrities to a man acquitted from death row.

It is indicative of the kind of person Archbishop Justin is, that in a room of household names, he chose the unknown non-verbal 12 year old to say something.  Indicative of the principles of the baby born that first Christmas that the weak are elevated, those on the margins of society given a voice, those excluded enabled to contribute.

Along with Eye Can Write, this book would make a perfect Christmas gift.

Here is a prayer I wrote for the launch:

Father,

Thank you for bringing us together, as we celebrate the publication of this empowering book. May it help spread the love that you instil within us all, through the beautiful messages of hope, peace and your great unfathomable love demonstrated in sending Jesus.  Within these pages we are also made aware of those in need: the lonely, those caught up in conflict and the broken-hearted.  Draw near to them Lord so that your light may penetrate their lives this Christmas.

In Jesus name we pray,

Amen

 

 

Bishop Viv’s Enthronement

When I received the invitation to Bishop Viv’s enthronement, I was surprised and honoured she wanted me there. So I went along assuming I was filling the last few places at the back. Instead, on arrival at the Cathedral we were escorted further and further down the building until we reached the second row… and no it wasn’t a mistake:enthronement

What a demonstration of God’s topsy-turvy kingdom values that two non-verbal people are sat alongside local dignitaries and in the row in front of Bishops’ wives; that scattered throughout the service are the voices of children reading parts of the liturgy; that one of the songs had the refrain ‘all are welcome’.

So as Bishop Viv starts her ministry among us we pray for her and look forward to building a church where all are accepted, all are accepted and all are welcome.

bishop viv enthronement[photo ©Barbara Evripidou/FirstAvenuePhotography.com]

 

Opening the Christian Resources Exhibition

Yesterday, I was honoured to open the Christian Resources Exhibition, speaking alongside Sally Phillips expounding the churches for all message that true inclusion goes beyond accessibility to valuing everyone’s contribution to the body of Christ.

While I was at the exhibition I was able to meet lots of interesting people, sign my books with my stamp and be interviewed for local radio.

Here is a copy of my speech:

Throughout my life I have known Jesus with me, cradling me in pain, sheltering me from darkness and beckoning me forward. In my autobiography, Eye Can Write, I took the opportunity to tell of my faith in Jesus and my brief visit to Jesus’ garden, but not so much of the part church plays in my life.  With a secular publisher every mention of Jesus was argued, justified and fought over. But a personal faith is nurtured, fed and supported by the church; Christ uses His church as His expression of God’s kingdom on earth.

Therefore, it is wonderful that this year’s CRE has a focus on churches for all, because Jesus is for all. Jesus chooses the weak over the strong, chooses the poor over the rich, chooses the humble over the proud. God’s heart is for those on the margins of society, and his church needs to reflect this. Of course part of this is addressed in making our buildings accessible – wheelchair ramps so we can get in, hearing loops so we can hear, accessible content so we can follow the service. But true inclusion goes deeper than accessibility, true inclusion enables us to contribute as well as receive, true inclusion values us as part of the body of Christ.  And we each have a part to play in making God’s kingdom a reality here on earth.

Out of a desire for everyone to contribute, everyone’s voice to be heard I have started my charity Teach Us Too.  If everyone is going to be able to contribute, then it is important that everyone is given the same opportunities for a literacy education.  Did you know that non-verbal children like me are usually not taught to read and write in special school?  Teach Us Too aims to change this through challenging attitudes and assumptions based on labels, influencing educational practice, encouraging ambition and sharing expertise.  My proceeds from my book, Eye Can Write are going to Teach Us Too.  When non–verbal children are taught to read and write it unlocks their voice, enabling them to say exactly what they want to.  We stop being seen as mere recipients and start being valued as members of society.

Jesus gives us life in all its fullness.  As churches we have the chance to model a society where all are accepted, all are valued, all are enabled to contribute.

Christian resources exhibition

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.

UWE October 2018 2

 

 

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.

 Sir Michael Morpurgo_Moment

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.