Monday, September 10, 2012
Creativity breaking down barriers
from the Fraser Coast Chronicle by Lauren Grounsell:
For 30 years, Peter Rowe was trapped by silence.
Down syndrome held his active mind captive while family and all who knew him watched on, believing he simply didn't understand.
But when Mr Rowe was introduced to Facilitated Communication, a lifetime of thoughts, dreams and hopes came flooding out as he communicated with his family for the first time.
He was so relieved, he cried all the way home.
The Coast man details the experience on his website and his words are enough to change any misconceptions people have about the disabled.
"I was the guy sitting in the corner who supposedly had nothing to say and no understanding of what was going on," he said
"I was bursting with thoughts but had no way of getting them out.
"You can't imagine how frustrating that was."
Local author Glen Sheppard has a similar story.
Facilitate Communication has allowed him to write books which tell what it's like to live in the world of autism.
Both men communicate via a "QWERTY" board.
Similar to a computer keyboard, it enables them to tap out their messages letter-by-letter.
Watching them tap-chat away is a humbling experience.
The delight they feel at finally being able to communicate is clear to see.
"Many people didn't really know me, but they thought they knew what I should not be able to do because of the way I look," Mr Rowe said.
"Many people misinterpret us based on appearances. Please don't judge me by a label."
Creative outlets give both men freedom to express themselves and examples of their creativity will go on display at Maroochydore Library this Thursday during Disability Action Week.
They said they wanted to show that behind their physical barrier was a person whose achievements and abilities positively contributed to society.
The double launch will feature artwork from Mr Rowe's latest collection and Mr Sheppard's new novel Solved in Silence.
Mr Sheppard wrote some of the novel as part of his Creative Writing degree at the University of The Sunshine Coast.
"It's a murder mystery fiction," he said. "It's been a marathon. It's taken me six years to write."
The story follows the life of Sarah who has Down syndrome, autism and can't speak.
"I would like to educate people about disability and also show people what can be achieved with hard work."
Mr Rowe was introduced to art as a form of therapy but was now an established artist in his own right.
"I love the creativity of art and the freedom it brings me," he said.