The Purple Tree and Other Poems is a collection of poems by Sydney Edmond who is non-speaking and autistic. She learned how to write using a letter board when she was ten-years old, two years later she gave her first public presentation and has presented at a number of other conferences since then. Now ten years later, Sydney continues to write, present and is the subject of a documentary called, “My name is Sydney”
“Lazy, achy lady
lived by the sea.
Lazy, achy lady,
move away, please.
You are always blabbing,
talking long and loud.
You are closing in on
my lovely little cloud.” ~ From the poem, Some Early Poems
One of the most exciting things happening now is the emergence of a growing number of non-speaking Autistic people who are writing. Thankfully self-publishing and blogs are making their work accessible to the public. As more non-speaking Autistic people write and publish their work, it will become increasingly difficult for the public to deny that the assumptions we have long-held about Autistic people are incorrect. Eventually we will have to re-evaluate how we are viewing those who are Autistic and what that actually means. Our notions of “intellectual disability”, our ideas about what someone is or is not capable of are being challenged and will continue to be until what we think we know now, what is considered common knowledge will be seen as antiquated and our limited assumptions an example of just how ignorant we once were.
“I lack the lovely peace of mind,
lack my always smile.
Who listens to a lonely girl,
Listens to a child?” ~ From Dear Friend
The first presentation Sydney gave was in 2005, just two years after she began communicating on a letter board. This poem, Love, Love, Love! was part of her presentation at the West Coast Symposium on Facilitated Communication.
“But Soma came along
and changed my life.
She actually lifted poor little me
out of darkness
and into light,
and lovable, lovable, lovely happiness.
Soma taught Mom
how to communicate with me,
and Mom and I have been talking
Now I can choose my own clothes,
make my own decisions,
and make lovely friends out of people.”
For those of us with children who do not speak or whose language is unreliable, or does not necessarily reflect what is meant or intended, we are entering a time of tremendous hope. There is a great deal of work still to be done, but in publicizing the work of those who are like our children, who are communicating by typing and pointing to letters on letter boards, we will shift how people view not only our children, but all our children and people. By questioning commonly held beliefs about any one group of people we affect change for all mankind.