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.
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 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,