There aren’t many occasions when you read a book in one day, jump up and say “I MUST tell everyone in the world” about this book.
But that’s exactly what happened when I finished reading “Voices from Silence” by Mary Craig.
Mary lives very near me so our paths crossed a few years ago upon the death of Pope John Paul II. Not a cheerful day, but a great day for me as I fortuitously picked up the phone to Mary who was calling the newspaper where I worked to give a comment as she had got to know him through her biography on him called “Man from a far country”. I went round to see her, fell instantly in love with her spirit, her wisdom and her no-nonsense way of talking.
What was meant to be a five –minute visit turned into an afternoon spent talking to her and I popped back in the following weekend to see how she was. During that time I learned what I should have known about her if I’d stopped to look in the newspaper archive before I set off. She is a hero in Poland, as she ran mercy missions to the country post-war with her friend Sue Ryder.
Most importantly, owing to losing her son to the rare Hurlers Disease at the age of 10 and then also bringing up son Nicky who has Down’s Syndrome, she wrote the best-selling book Blessings.
If you ever have depression or even a whiff of feeling down, then this book is for you. It’s an incredible story about how Mary faced up to coping with the tribulations that life threw at her by turning her attention to others’ suffering.
Anyway, having left the paper, I often thought about Mary, but had stupidly left her phone number in my contacts book with my replacement. Once I was in her area but couldn’t recall where her house was. I then saw a nib in the paper about her newest book and her book signing so thought I’d swing by and say hello.
Alarmingly, I was her only customer. I had a chat, was delighted that she remembered me and I paid £10 for the book in which she put a charming dedication.
I took the book home and struggled with the close-set typefont and forgot about it. I gave birth to a son a few months later and whenever a spare moment presented itself, sleep seemed preferable to reading.
Until one day he was asleep and it rained and rained and rained so I picked up the book. Hours later I was done and knew that I just had to get the idea out there.
Please bear with me because the subject matter is weird and massively controversial. But if you have anyone in your life who has learning difficulties or a friend who has a child with autism, then please read on.
You’ll have heard of the Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It’s about a Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former editor-in-chief of Elle, who wrote a book communicating with his left eyelid after a stroke.
If he can do it, are there other people who are trapped in their bodies, with their minds powering along but no way to communicate? Can you imagine the pure agony of having something to say and constantly being ignored?
I know this is a difficult and perhaps unbelievable concept, but surely we have a duty to try!
Mary’s book Voices from Silence explores Facilitated Communication which is a system by which people can communicate via their carers who hold their wrists over a keyboard or communication board.
Facilitated communication was “invented” in the 1970s in Australia by Rosemary Crossley, a teacher who produced communication from cerebral palsy suffers.
Facilitated communication (FC) is a process by which a person referred to as the "facilitator" supports the hand or arm of a communicatively impaired individual while using a keyboard or other devices with the aim of helping the individual to point and thereby to communicate.
Incredibly one of the people in Crossley’s care Anne McDonald wrote a book called "Annie's Coming Out" which told the story of her release from an institution.
Later, Douglas Biklen, a university professor, investigated Rosemary Crossley's work and pushed for acceptance in the States. He reported that students with severe autism were said to be producing entire paragraphs of clear and age-appropriate language.
Initially Mary is sceptical. Aren’t we all? But the more she finds out, the more she realises that there is something there and even guides her son Nick to try it with jaw-dropping results.
I haven’t seen it in action, but where is the harm in trying? Please, please re-tweet, paste and share this story.
I have five copies of Voices from Silence to giveaway. Please just tell me a bit about why you would like to read the book and a way of contacting you so that I can get your postal address.
PS. Mary is not well but is very keen to hear that her book is making changes and helping people. If you have a comment for her, please leave it here and I’ll pass it along.