Monday, May 31, 2021

Poem About My Life by Cece

by Cece

Aimed high 
reached low too many times
I am self critical 
in countless ways 

Lack luster 
simple solutions
Fight myself 
every moment of my day 

fearlessly and endlessly 
Making a magician 
blow his mind
How I land 
on my lyrics

Hours go by 
molding letters and words 
stringing my heart's accordion 
Gravity shifts 
deeper into my core 
stunning myself of possibilities of 
human brain


Cece is a nonspeaking autistic and my 28-year-old daughter. She wrote this poem using a controversial technique called "Facilitated Communication." I was a skeptic at first. When I carefully observed Cece in tandem with a fine facilitator, I became convinced that FC can, if done properly, work to help some autistics communicate in language. In FC, facilitators hold the arm or hand of an autistic people to steady them so that they can type, usually on an I-pad. Cece's first sentence was "I no my letters."

The controversy first. Unfortunately, Facilitated Communication has resulted in some people being wrongly accused of sexual improprieties. This, obviously, can ruin people's lives and is downright horrible. I assume it stemmed from a parent or support person worried about a nonspeaking person's vulnerability. I always worry about someone hurting Cece and her being unable to report it. When they start typing, you want to ask, "Is anyone hurting you?" The problem with doing so, based on my limited experience with Cece and FC, is that some autistics new to expressive language use it in unconventional ways. What they take "hurt" to mean may not be what a neurotypical does. We need to be careful with FC and what comes out of its applications.

While using FC, Cece had a strange and compelling metaphoricity going on that I never fully understood. And then she grew tired of FC, and now rarely does it. The above poem was her first, and, in my estimation, her only publishable one. She has given me permission to post it here, knowing full well some of her former teachers and friends of her parents will enjoy it. She was a real artist when she wrote it, if I am a real artist, because she felt the process come to closure, just as I do. After fixing up a few lines, she suddenly started to flap her hands and make intense gleeful sounds: she was happy. Why? She knew she completed her first poem!

Why do I think FC can work? Many, many reasons. The following story is the most compelling. My ex-wife asked Cece, "Who are your friends?" Cece and the facilitator got to work, and then the facilitator reported that she typed absolute gibberish. My ex-wife asked her to spell it out. She did: "a-m-i-g-o-s." The facilitator knew absolutely no Spanish. I assume Cece learned the Spanish word for "friends" at her place of work for so-called "disabled" people. 

This is just one of many examples of Cece showing real understanding independent of the facilitator. Later, Cece grew anxious about FC. My guess is that coming into expressive language at age 26, which she was at the time, was too much. Perhaps we exaggerate the importance of language. For me, this is the lesson Cece is teaching. We can get by without language. There are other things to focus on.

Cece also paints in an abstract expressionist style. Some pictures of her paintings will appear in a post tomorrow. 

A big thanks to her generous facilitator. I assume she is reading this.


In the Twin Cities, the connection for poetry and autism is Unrestricted Interest.

Nationally, the connection is Syracuse University.

See also the movies Wretches and Jabberers and Deej.


Unknown said...

Keep up the good work Cece!

Jefferson Hansen said...

Thanks for the support.

Leslie said...

Extremely beautiful & illuminating! Blessings to CecE & her family!>9

sondheim said...

Really love this poem; it carries a depth of its own in relation to language - "How I land / on my lyrics" for example is wonderful!

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