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Voices of Vision - Clip 1 Transcript

Tyler Fihe bicycling along an oceanside bike path.

Narrator: California’s picturesque Pacific Coast Highway is a familiar path for Tyler Fihe. The strapping 17 year old finds his peace as he pedals along the coastline. Here words are not necessary.

Shows Tyler looking out towards the ocean.

Narrator (in Tyler’s words): Me, trapped in my mind, trapped in my body, like looking through the hourglass every minute of every day. The darkness clouds my mind. It covers my thoughts so I can’t speak. I dream to type independently. I am instead forced to utter thoughts with no meaning like an infant.

Narrator: “Me” is the poem Tyler wrote for an eighth grade project. He is challenged by autism and while he does speak, he relies on a device called a Lightwriter that aids him in expressing his thoughts.

Tyler and a facilitator are shown sitting on a couch. Tyler types a message on his Lightwriter using a method called facilitated communication.

Tyler: I am an intelligent man and my body is a mess and I struggle to control even my hands.

Lightwriter: I am an intelligent man. My body is a mess and I struggle to control even my hands.

Tyler: Even my hands!

Julie Robinson (Clinical Psychologist/Behavior Specialist): He has movements in his body that he can’t control, including loud sounds and jumping around. So at the time that we met in 8th grade, Tyler was having to leave the class every 10 to 15 minutes to take breaks so that he could kind of gather himself to come back in and stay engaged with the curriculum.

Narrator: The struggle is significant, but the adversity Tyler faces is surpassed by his success. Tyler is a senior at Santa Cruz High School and is enrolled in regular education courses with his peers who do not have disabilities.

Tyler: I am one of the lucky ones whose Mom would stop at nothing who would stop stop stop at nothing to get me a.

Lightwriter: I am one of the lucky ones whose Mom would stop at nothing to get me a voice.

Tyler: To get me a voice! Get me a voice!

Tyler’s Mother: I was determined to help Tyler.

Narrator: At five and a half years old, Tyler typed his first words, with his mother providing the support he needed.

Tyler’s Mother, Lynn Bariteau: He typed, “I don’t care” and those three words, “I don’t care,” shocked me. Just shocked me so much because it was like I was seeing my son’s personality, I was hearing his feelings. And his feelings that he didn’t care, I couldn’t reckon with it. And I said, “By God, you know, if you don’t care at your age, we’re going to figure out how to help you to care. Because I can’t live with myself with you at this young age not caring about life and communicating.”

Narrator: Lynn Bariteau had her work cut out for her.

Lynn: I said, “Tyler, you and I are going to learn how to communicate and we’re going to practice everyday for 5 or 10 minutes a day with this old electric portable typewriter until we get it because this is our way out. This is our way to get to know each other.”

Narrator: Lynn then had to convince a special education teacher that Tyler had a right to full inclusion in a regular classroom.

Lynn: I battled with her for, gosh, five years. And it was a long, hard battle. She did not believe my son’s communication and she did not really support inclusion.

Woman: She basically became known as the Mom they aren’t going to win over.

Narrator: Nancy Weiss is the Executive Director of TASH, an international membership association leading the way to inclusion, opportunity, equal access, and best practices for people labeled with disabilities.

Nancy: For some reason, it’s the one bastion where we have decided that separate but equal is okay, even though our country threw out that concept a long time ago for African Americans.

Lou Brown, Founder of TASH: These segregated settings, these institutions, these sheltered workshops, these activity centers, large group homes, are unsafe. There is no nice way of saying it.

Nancy: There are two problems with that. One is the problem for the people with disabilities themselves having limited opportunities and limited lives. And the other is it makes all of us less comfortable with people with disabilities because we haven’t been exposed to people with disabilities.

Narrator: TASH believes that full inclusion in all aspects of society is the key to eliminating prejudice and fear of people with disabilities. Lou Brown is one of the Founders of TASH created in 1974 by parents and professionals seeking humane and nurturing alternatives to institutions and sheltered workshops. They wanted effective inclusive education for kids with disabilities and opportunities for meaningful, self-directed lives as these kids grew into adulthood.

Lou Brown: Instead of being shocked and slapped and beaten and squirted with ammonia and pinched when you did something that somebody else thought was inappropriate, we said no, we want to be treated like anybody else. Instead of having no school, being excluded, we want access to the public schools which we thought was a fair and decent thing.

Nancy: At that time, it was mostly parents and professionals who worked in the disability field. And now TASH members are professionals who work in the disability field and family members of people with disabilities and to a large extent people with disabilities themselves. So that it’s a real collaborative kind of advocacy effort where all three of those factions come together with shared ideas about where the future can be for people with disabilities and work together both in specific ways with individual advocacy and more broadly on legislative advocacy and public policy efforts that are really the key to changing the future for big numbers of people.

Narrator: Tyler Fihe is just one of countless people with disabilities TASH has helped by providing opportunities to network with families, professionals, advocates and policy makers. The annual TASH conference is where Lynn Bariteau was first introduced to TASH.  

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