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Danny Whitty is a nonspeaking Autistic and Apraxic man, who was unable to communicate his thoughts for 30 years of his life. He now uses S2C (Spelling to Communicate) to share his deep insight, advocacy, writing and poetry with the world.

In this episode, Danny shares about the people that have made a difference in his life, about how access to communication has completely transformed the way he shares, and the immense importance of communication and respect in the world of Non-Speaking Autistic people.

If you have an Autistic child who is either non-speaking or minimally speaking or “unreliably” speaking (which means that there is a body-mind disconnect, that older autistics often talk about where what one says isn’t really what one wants to say) – I do hope you consider RPM or S2C to take your child’s communication journey onward.

In this episode, Danny speaks about his experience with ABA, and how that might have led to even simple communication being unreliable (saying YES when means NO, for example). You can find Danny at https://dannywithwords.com/ and https://dannywithwords.com/the-ocean-… .

Learn more about Assuming Intelligence and Non-Linear Education at www.functionalnutritionforkids.com/nonlineareducation

Audio Transcription:

Vaish:

I’m really excited to have Danny with me on today’s podcast. Danny is a proud and caring Autistic man in Southern California. He’s a writer. He’s a poet. He’s an advocate and an awesome friend. for over 30 years, Danny was unable to communicate his true thoughts. His life has moved on since then, because he has been he’s had access to spelling to communicate. 2 of Danny’s ongoing projects are the “Ocean and US” podcast where he shares the wonder of the ocean and the need for inclusion in enjoying and saving it. And Leo in Bloom magazine which is centered on empathy and featuring diverse voices, including non speakers. Danny is also an advocate with the Spellers and Allies Advocacy Network. He has acted as an advisor for the educational guides for “The Reason I Jump” film. This is on Netflix, by the way, and he’s also contributed to the Neuroclastic music media toolkit and the ACES talking hopes to be a published writer one day, he loves to make more friends writing is his passion.

I have heard his poetry I love it too. And Danny’s really happy to share it with everyone. He communicates by spelling to communicate also known as S2C on a letter board with his communication and regulation partner. This is called a CRP and we’ll be using this abbreviation more. His older sister She’s a true ally. Danny and his sister are working on transitioning to a keyboard and on speaking skills. He’s also working towards letter boarding fluency with other CRPS.  Welcome, Danny is there anything you want to add?

Danny:

I am so happy to be here. I’m also really happy that you’re here.

Vaish:

One of the things that you know I that is so unique about you Danny is that you have a really good speech Have you always know had this good speech or is this something that came about later?

Danny:

Well, I was lucky to have a good kindergarten teacher who believed I could speak with help. It’s excellent. I was lucky to have 35 a kindergarten teacher who I could speak so she taught me how to make sounds with my mouth. And I remember helping him practice those sounds as kids. She was only good teacher in school.

Vaish:

I’m glad to hear you had a teacher you liked. One of the things that parents of non speaking kids or minimally speaking autistic kids get stuck in is speech and I often you know I think I got lucky that SID doesn’t speak because I would have not explored RPM. If SID was speaking and I wanted to ask you about you know, how speech what if? Let me rephrase my question a little bit. The importance of seeking out other communication methods when a child is speaking because there’s a lot of times if a child is speaking as well as you, that’s usually very rare people don’t explore other communication methods. So how important is it and why?

Danny:

So I am I’m unreliably speaking. Let me see, he might have written a little something about this earlier. No, okay. So I’m unreliably speaking, So, that means my words are not reliable indicators of my feelings. So I will say YES, when I mean NO And I feel this is an artifact, in a way, from ABA where I was disciplined for wrong answers and I was used to saying things that didn’t match my thoughts. Yeah, it’s so important to explore different modes of communication! Awesome.

Vaish:

Thank you for sharing that, Danny, that’s it’s hard to listen to, and I can’t I know it’s probably hard to share as well. But thank you for reiterating this, this idea of, of reaching out to other communication methods because it’s so hard when speech is taken as this Holy Grail and then a lot of times I’m looking at kids and I know that the speech is not what they’re trying to say, but thank you for saying that. Have you tried other communication methods like Whether that’s AAC high tech communication method or anything else before S2C, did they work?

Danny:

Not Yet, and I am so happy with S2C Aligning the grid!

Vaish:

Yeah, we just decided notice that we were exploring different AAC, some high tech AAC for SID. And that turned out so I think because he’s, he points to the letter board. And then it seems like if you just put an iPad in front of him, he pointed that but he couldn’t move his body in front of the iPad. So it was just like a harsh reality to not run after flashy things. And we’re also planning to stick with it right now. So I think I definitely made the mistake of of trying to go here and there. So we’re a little bit now, SID uses primarily RPM, but also some S2C. So
that’s where we’re sticking also like you Danny.

Danny:

By the way, I love his poetry so much! Awesome.

Vaish:

Thank you, I will pass pass that on to him and he will be very excited to hear it. He follows you very passionately on Instagram.

Danny:

His style is so special and powerful and inspires me! Awesome.

Vaish:

Thank you, Danny. That’s sweet of you to say and I will definitely pass on. SID gets very thrilled when he hears any praise from fellow poets. So I know that he’ll be flying for me time. I want to hear about some of the  good things that happened. I know that it must have been so exciting for you and your family when you finally found S2C. Can you share with us some things that changed when that happened when S2C came into your life?

Danny:

So he prepared a response to this big question. So he has a response and he wants to read it now. Okay.
Yeah, please do. My mom found RPM. I didn’t click with the first practitioner we tried. So I was skeptical about
the whole idea. But then heard about Elizabeth Vosseller and S2C and she brought me to try with her during a workshop in Portland. Pretty much right away. I felt a strong connection with Elizabeth Vosseller and her confidence in me was so powerful I could fluently spell with her by the end of the second day.

Wow. It was so amazing. And so absolutely universe opening. Now with my sister Tara as my daily CRP and my sister Era and now pretty fluent, and our mom getting there, and support from the team at Transcending Apraxia
that’s a center here in San Diego. I share so much more. Okay, and I am so  I’m so thrilled to be able to communicate my needs, wants feelings, jokes, advocacy, poetry and just conversation with loved ones. It is a major immense, astounding life changing transformation.

Tara:

Thank you Danny, are you saying something to add to his his bio that you introduced him with his
his dream of being a published writer. He’s now been published, including his article in Bon Appetit Magazine. That’s true. I’ve seen that. Yeah, that’s another one of the things that has changed his life and I am so eager to publish more.

Vaish:

I’m eager to read more of your writing. Danny, I have question for your sister, Tara is how long did it take for you to train as a CRP.

Tara:

I didn’t go through much training because I was living abroad for the two years prior
to moving back. And I was always traveling so much before that. So whenever I visit home, I go to Dawn Marie at Transcending Apraxia and sit in on his sessions. And she’d give me some tips and encouraged me to try and re practice but it was so patchy. And then when I moved back to be his full time CRP, two years ago, it was pretty, pretty fast. I mean, I think the pandemic gave us a lot of time to practice because he was Yeah,
neither of us were going anywhere. And you were just desperate for socializing. And you couldn’t go to Dawn Marie at that point. Within a couple of months of earnestly trying maybe yeah, we reach fluency would you say that? It’s hard to remember now. She is a natural smooth to work with!

Vaish:

That that is that is so sweet. Danny, I just want to tell you that Sid has very much the opposite experience with his sister. Who’s Of course only 11 but she is very patchy with letter board And yeah, work in
progress. That would be great  if they could be like you guys, that would be one day that would be my dream.

Tara:

You wanna say anything Danny?

Danny:

They are still young.

Vaish:

They are very young.

Tara:

I had to make a decision to resign from full time work and commit myself and I was in my I was 36. I was like, I’ve done a lot of stuff for myself. And our sister who’s four years younger, she’s now flown with Longer term, because, you know, she has her own career and life that she needs to establish now, so it’s definitely I think, a thing of timing to

Vaish:

Yes, you guys are both very inspirational the team. Your team is awesome.

Tara:

Thank you. Yeah, we love working together.

Vaish:

Switching subjects slightly Danny into something a little bit more controversial that you can choose not to answer, but it’s something that I’ve been feeling. And I’ll tell you a little bit of context, this is the question about whether intellectual delay is real. And the context is because, as you know, SID has Down syndrome, which basically comes with a with a definition, almost that Down syndrome is intellectual delay, he’s autistic. And he may have a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, which is a little late to diagnose, but a lot of his doctors think that he may also have that again and again over his life, perhaps even more than if he were to have just one of those diagnosis, people have really been very insistent that he has intellectual delay. And when he doesn’t, he obviously doesn’t, I’m thinking whether you know, this whole intellectual delay thing is just because we don’t know how to communicate with with people that have different needs for communication. So, I wanted to know what your take was or is?

Danny:

Wow, that is such an important question. I am not qualified to really answer it. What I will say is that it is
a human rights issue that So, many people are oppressed because their intellectual capacity is misunderstood. that’s an abbreviation even if there is intellectual delay, intellectual delay that needs to be much better respect and recognition of rights.

Vaish:

I think that’s very well said Danny, very well said thank you. Finally, I wanted to ask you what would an ideal education system and I realized that that’s a really broad question, but I could also rephrase it to say that you have anything you want to say to school teachers or school districts or systems that are listening to you, but
you could answer it either way you like my ideal education system or a message to teachers

Tara:

I will start with reading a response to the first explanation. Okay. Let me get to the response you prepared Danny and we’ll do the same thing. Ideal education system alright. Wow. I can’t begin to capture all my ideas. Simply put a system where the actual well being of students is the true priority. Yeah, it seems that schools are all too often battlegrounds and arenas for adult egos and ignorant policies. So anything else you want to add to that?

He asked me to share about the message he posted to special education teachers on his Facebook. First year of being fluent. So maybe a year and a half ago. He had a very negative experience in public school. And this was before S2C right? Yeah, I mean, he’s he was 30, when he … So yeah, yeah. But our parents were always in
there advocating. Like he’s much smarter, like, Yeah, well, you’re in the bathroom, I’ll explain. You know, he was doing high level math. And, you know, my parents knew he was smarter. But the special education teacher was so disrespectful to our whole family. And so getting posted on Facebook, just kind of as he’s starting to process some of the really difficult things he’s been through that he could finally communicate. He wanted to share on Facebook, how negative his experience in high school had been. And his closing  message was something like to special education teachers, you will influence your students lives for better or for worse, to try to be a voice for good. That was his. Yeah, I think that’s what he’s referring to. He’s just taking a quick bathroom breaks and no worries Yes.

Vaish:

And just thank you for that really in depth answer to the question on how you’d like the education system to change. And I think what you said is very good if schools were actually interested in the growth of the child as opposed to you know, just policy or budget or ego or or ease to the teacher, I think that would be a
much better place to get started. It is just getting their priorities right.

Danny:

Can you please ask Tara to mention my main support people in communication? I wrote a long reply. but I don’t think there’s enough time to say it.

Vaish:

You can say it Danny, I’m happy. I have time.

Danny:

Read it. I’m happy to summarize it too. But if you want to read it, please do. s u r e. So alright, let’s go to it all right. Excuse me. Besides, besides Elizabeth Vosseller, Dawn Marie Gavin from Transcending Apraxia
She is my S2C mentor and hero. She is my main practitioner that I’ve worked with, and she has helped my family learn how to be my CRPS. She is amazing and so visionary about building a community of spellers in San Diego. Alright. I also work with Johnny Perez, a practitioner at Transcending Apraxia. He is awesome and is
helping me to type autonomously. Brianna Williams is an S2C practitioner and SLP, who helped me greatly in working on my speech. I could speak before but she helped me so much with my enunciation and my confidence to try speaking more.

And then let’s go to Debbie Spangler is also an S2C practitioner, and family therapist. She is absolutely fantastic. And it’s helped me so much in processing my traumas, anxiety and the immense changes in my life now that I can communicate. It has helped me learn how to better regulate myself and dysregulation is my biggest obstacle at the moment. I feel that most spellers would really benefit from such therapy.  and of course my older sister Tara. She moved home two years ago to focus on my communication and transformed my life. She not only has been my everyday CRP but my advocate and mentor and creative collaborator and ally in all senses. She guided me to so much poetry, ocean sports and advocacy. She is my absolute hero. And then the last but not least I also want to mention my mom who works so hard to support my physical needs. And that is so critically important to my ability to communicate that is a point that is not appreciated enough. Yeah, anything to add?

That was a lot. But it is so important to show that takes a lot of support and that great support is out there!

Vaish:

Thank you to your entire team. Danny, thank you for mentioning your team and I’m also grateful to your whole team. It’s wonderful the way everything comes together. And that you finally found this, the phenomenal team actually to support you. Right. So that is and you support them too. So thank you, Danny, thanks. I hope I hope that many more parents will be inspired by your story and unexplored means of communications that are beyond
speech. And explore S2C explorer, RPM, whatever it takes for the child to communicate and understand that
there’s there’s so much beyond what they may be seeing as very apparent on the surface.

Tara:

I just want to interject and say obviously, the benefit to Danny is our main goal, it has been our main goal, and we wanted to be able to communicate with him but we really couldn’t have predicted how amazing it is for
us to as a family members, we gained so much. So I echo your hope that more and more parents and families are able to get to know their their non speaking or unreliably speaking family members through other means of communication. Yes. I’m so absolutely grateful beyond words for spelling. And I hope that more nonspeaking folks are able to able to enjoy the immense benefits of reliable communication and And that the world learns to see us as we are! Awesome!

Vaish:

As you said, Danny, I hope the same too and I think also to Tara’s point. I think it’s immensely important that non speaking kids you know, have access to communication in whatever way that works for them. But it’s, we also forget how immensely important it is for us to hear what they’re saying. And to for the richness that can just kind of come into your life that you never knew was there. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Danny, thank you for taking the time to talk to this group of parents, practitioners, everybody. Me!  My pleasure.

Danny:

Will you be at Neurolyrical cafe? Yes. Absolutely. All right. Yes.

Vaish:

I will look forward to seeing you there!