Meet Ezra. He is a fourth-grade scholar at AF Bushwick Elementary’s Empower Program. Ezra is classified with Autism and due to his diagnosis of Apraxia, he is non-verbal.
He uses a method of communication called RPM (Rapid Prompting Method), in which he touches letters on an alphabet stencil/board to talk and answer questions in class. Ezra is also learning how to type.
Recently, Ezra typed a piece in which he describes his feeling and thoughts about his non-verbal Autism. Please read it below. The only changes we have made to this piece are to alter the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. In Ezra’s original writing, if words are spelled incorrectly or punctuation is missing, it is usually due to motor difficulties/lack of control over his body.
Ezra said he wants to share this piece with all teachers, students at AF, and people around the world so we can learn about his experience being non-verbal.
Meet Ezra: Learn His Story
What do you want to say about autism?
Autism is hard to story tell.
What do you want to do?
I would like people watching the problems I try to overcome every day.
How do you want to show people?
Video, (and/or) write a poem (about) loving everyone.
Three days later, Ezra made an outline about how autism affects him. He filled this out in one session.
Trying to communicate
I want to challenge you to remain silent. Horrible, don’t you think? Thinking about it makes me sick. I am not talking about one minute, not even that is doable for some people. Can you imagine remaining silent your entire life? If you are hungry, sad, or in pain, you want to scream, no sound comes out of your mouth. In your mind, everything is boiling; in your heart, everything is hurting. In your life, nothing but silence.
I am not that silent anymore.
I found my voice. It was hidden. It was as simple as it should be for everyone like me. I can talk. It is not like you will hear my voice, you will read my words or you can listen to my words when someone else reads what I spell.
Thinking about the future is terrifying when you cannot talk. I am still scared.
Then, over the weekend, he had a conversation with his mom about autism.
Mom: Are there days when you can’t communicate lots of your thoughts and feelings?
Mom: Why do you think that happens?
Ezra: No idea.
Mom: Is it different with different people?
Mom: is it different on different days?
Mom: Why do you think it’s different on different days?
Ezra: It is harder to use my letterboard/type on different days because it is hard to control my body.
One week later, Ezra wrote the following.
Friends who understand.
Being lonely is awful. For a long time, I had no one whom I could call friend my friend. I was empty. My heart cried every day. I wanted, I needed, someone to join me –someone who would understand what it is like not having a voice. Someone who would make sense of my thoughts without me saying anything.
One day, everything changed. I met a real friend. I could not believe it. We have a lot of things in common. He is the friend who can read my mind. I also found other people that understand me; I consider myself very blessed. I have great parents and amazing people around me, and I am grateful for the things I learn. For many years I did not learn anything.
Trying to control my impulsive thoughts.
Sometimes I really want to make my body stop. I don’t want to run back and forth, yet I find myself insisting. The sounds escape from my mouth no matter what I do to hold them back. My hands are all over the place, my body is like a horse that has never been tamed. My thoughts are wild they follow their own lead. Nothing is in my control. Sometimes, I feel desperate. Sometimes, I feel like I have to do certain things. I know I don’t need to do any of the things, my body pushes me to do it. I do those things nonetheless. When you see people doing weird things, do not judge. There is no way for you to know what is happening inside our souls. Do not feel sorry for us, we need respect like everyone else. Nothing less, nothing more.
We are all so lucky to have the chance to meet Ezra.