Wordless Wednesday of a different kind

I have recently had the pleasure of working with an amazing young man named Joey, who has kindly given permission for me to share this story.

Some background...

I met Joey two years ago at a horse riding center. I was new, but he had been riding for over 10 years! The first thing that struck me were his fabulously good looks - He is the very essence of tall, dark and handsome. He has one of those infectious grins, that has everyone around him smiling, too.
He has an impeccable memory and often he laughs at me forgetting people's names. If anything goes missing, Joey will know where to find it. He keeps the tack room absolutely immaculate - Helmets and boots lined up in order of size, saddles and bridles neatly arranged in the same formation that the horses are tied up in outside and everything else in it's rightful place.

He also happens to have a disability. Please, do not get the "disability" confused with the person. Joey is Joey. He is 18, his favourite food is Mexican, his favourite band is Jet and he has a hat fetish. His disability is just one layer.

The words...

The nature of Joey's disability means that he is unable to communicate verbally, or by writing or signing. That doesn't leave much. Essentially, Joey has been wordless not just on Wednesday's, but everyday, for all of his life thus far.

Unfortunately, being silent has made Joey a spectator in his own life. His choices are usually made for him, his likes and dislikes decided by which ever support person is working on the day, and although many assume that Joey doesn't really understand much, or think about anything in particular, this couldn't be further from the truth. Joey has a lot to say.

Two weeks ago I talked to Joey about Facilitated Communication, and last week he spoke via a communication board for the very first time. Since then we have had many conversations, but this was the very first - and boy, did it knock me off my feet.

After 18 years of silence and 12 years of horse riding, the first words he communicated were,

"I hate horses!"

When asked if he wanted to add anything else, he said,

"Nothing personal."


Lin said...

"I hate horses!"

That is tragically funny! Or comically tragic! That could've been a scene from a movie.

Wow, it sounds like such a privilege to have been there for his first clear communication with the world!

debby said...

I'll bet he's glad he's got THAT off his chest.

A said...

I do feel incredibly privileged to have been part of this step for Joey. I also feel sad that it's taken this long for him to be heard.
Unfortunately Joey's body language is the same for any kind of heightened emotion - whether that's joy or distress - So for 12 years his distress went unnoticed.
It is so fantastic to see his personality coming out more and more now that he is able to communicate more effectively.

debby said...

You know, a, I like my job very much, but I have to say, I think that you might have just the best job ever. It is rewarding to watch the layers 'peel' away from a person to catch a glimpse of their truest self. You are a lucky woman! Take some time to count blessings today.

PlanningQueen said...

It is amazing how much we can take forgranted the abiliity we have to communicate.

Megan from Imaginif said...

What a classic. This has reminded me not to make assumptions for people with communication disabilities.
Thank goodness Joey had the opportunity to let you know that horses for courses is not the course he wants to sit on in future.
Happy International Women's Day A and the three kewl girls.

baby~amore' said...

wow - very impressive he can now communicate and even more what he said !
I see a few of your commenters are familiar to me. Kewl (i love this)

great title and all strength to Joey as he finds a loud voice.

jeanie said...

Oh that is a classic - I laughed out loud!

What intelligent first words.

Mind you, I love horses. I think the most wonderful feeling in the world is to hug a horse.

Bush Babe (of Granite Glen) said...

Wow - that is funny and incredible and damned funny! How amazing for Joey and those around him... I too have seen these in use for those who have never been able to express themselves, and I know how enabling this communication can be. You will be able to see him blossom now... lucky girl.

Joey's world has no doubt opened up hugely - hope he hangs on and enjoys the ride (no pun intended!).