When her son, Brady, typed his first sentence, Danielle Wright, who describes herself as “not a crier,” could not hold back the tears.
For the first time in his 13 years, the nonverbal boy was able to communicate with his family and the world around him. It was – as he himself had typed – a “groundbreaking” moment.
“I just knew we just embarked on a whole new way of life, Brady now being a full participant in his life and ours,” said Wright.
In the five years since, Brady has learned not simply to use the language to communicate, but to reveal a talent that lay hidden behind the veil of the neuromotor disorder with which he had been diagnosed at a young age.
The talent: poetry.
Now, Brady Wright has written and published a volume of his poetry, and it is certain to open up his world to those who delve into it.
Finding the words
Brady was 3 when he was diagnosed with autism, 5 when he was found to have apraxia, which affects the communication between the muscles of the mouth and the brain. Verbal communication was not possible, which left his mom and dad, Danielle and Brian Wright, making their best guesses at what he wanted to express. This could be especially challenging when there was a health or medical concern.
What changed everything was a process called facilitated communication, also called typing.
A facilitator provides support. While monitoring her communication partner’s posture and eye contact, she offers a kind of guidance to stabilize movement so as to make typing possible. The level of this physical support varies with the individual, from resistance to a light touch. Over time, this support might decrease to where the communicator is able to demonstrate an ability to type without physical touch.
This process has allowed Brady’s family to really get to know him and better understand his personality.
“Brady is an amazing young man,” according to his mother. “He can be very serious at times, a perfectionist, yet really funny. He calls himself a jokester. He loves his family very much, especially his sister Peyton, and cherishes his friendships. He loves adventure and trying new things. He is also very sensitive and expresses himself like no other person his age does.”
Before discovering facilitated communication, Brady said it was hard to get people to understand him.
“No way to get my thoughts out,” he wrote in an email. “I felt locked away from the world.”
Now that had changed, but there was yet another discovery to be made.
The poet within
Brady’s talent for poetry came to light at an otherwise dark time.
His grandmother, Yaya, had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and his mother had gone to South Florida to help her parents. Brady took the situation hard and dealt with it through his typing.
During one of his sessions, he asked if he could write a poem. It would prove to be the first of many.
Here is what he wrote:
Breathe in peace, you are healed
Exhale grief, you are gone
Only my heart can see you now
But my soul feels your love
Whispers of your voice linger in my memories
Breaking my heart in two
But two makes sense representing one for me and one for you
Very fight to accept my loss but restore hope remembering the battle you won
Sadly our loss is heaven’s gain
You are with the Son
Free at last
My lovely Yaya
In his email, Brady wrote that poetry has given him “freedom to finally welcome my thoughts.” His interest in this literary form eventually grew, though he still needed to work out some things.
“I think I needed to understand Brady first,” he admitted.
Since that first poem, Brady has been posting his work on his website, hostagetosilence.com.
Before long, Brady decided he’d like to write a book of poetry.
“I wanted to share my experiences with the world,” he wrote. “Some way to advocate for the voiceless.”
It was hard to write – as many an author will appreciate – and he labored at it for “days and days” over a period of roughly four years.
He soon realized he needed an illustrator, and fortunately, had gotten to know an artistic young woman who, like Brady, had learned to communicate via facilitated communication.
As a nonverbal child, Gentry Groshell first learned to express herself on canvas as an abstract artist. Starting with watercolor paper and progressing to large canvases, she developed a style using bright colors in broad brushstrokes and leaving the interpretation of her designs to the viewer.
She reveals her own poetic sensibilities in the titles of her art, such as “Lost Love” and “Beautiful Heart."
Her work proved to be just right for Brady’s poetry.
“Gentry paints with her heart and emotions,” wrote Brady. “I believe my book shows that as well. She is kind, so she is the perfect choice.”
The book is titled “Hostage to Silence” and, though it has just been published, has already hit No. 1 on Amazon for a new release in disability parenting.
It can be purchased via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Scribd and Apple Books.
Brady wrote that those who read his book will learn a lot about him, his quiet life, friends and family. They’ll also learn about how he copes and about some of his fears, as well.
Reading his poetry, one comes to realize that Brady thinks deeply about things and has an appreciation for the differences in other people.
“Everyone has a face (face means reality),” he wrote, “and a favorite way to communicate. Not everyone is the same.”
Meet and greet
Brady and Gentry are planning a meet-and-greet and book-signing Jan. 29 at Peace of Heart Community, 14A South Roscoe Blvd., Ponte Vedra Beach.
The public is welcome but must RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.