John Smyth, author of From Autism’s Tomb, is a 21 year old expert on autism, isolation, and escape from isolation to a life of contribution.
Diagnosed with severe autism, communication disorder, and seizure disorder, John lost his speech to regressive autism at about 20 months of age and became nonverbal. Until the age of 16 ½, he was unable to communicate even his most basic needs.
John’s public school system and other professionals tested him to have the mind of a three year-old. He was placed in life skills classes for most of his education, having taken a couple of years off to do Verbal Behavior Therapy in a private setting.
“I missed most of my educational opportunity being placed in “Life-skills” with some others like me and some who are more truly unable to answer the questions. We “learned” the ABCs, how to tell time, and how to count money and listen to stories over and over again, year after year. For two years, I was also in Applied Behavior Therapy and Verbal Behavior Therapy. I’ll write about these experiences in the future. Some of my old friends are still stuck in silence.”
At the age of 16 ½, John began taking lessons in Supported Typing. To his parents’ complete surprise, he began communicating age-appropriate thoughts immediately. In the 4 ½ years since that time, John has:
- Completed a Core 40 diploma from an accredited high school with inclusion in a general education setting, He graduated in September 2015.
- Successfully passed state End of Course Assessment (ECA) exams, some with very high scores and without having completed all of the coursework before testing beyond state requirements.
- Authored a regular column in his school newspaper.
- Accomplished a nearly straight A average.
- Co-founded Saved By Typing, a charitable organization with outreach to the nonverbal autistic and with national influence.
- Participated directly or indirectly in the discovery of at least 50 nonverbal autistics’ voices and in the matriculation of several to general education settings.
- Successfully served many dozens of parents, persons with nonverbal autism, behaviorists, and other professionals who work with the nonverbal population.
- Has been accepted to Marian University in Indianapolis, where he will begin classes in January, 2016.
John’s mission is to open a window into the world of disability, especially to the growing population wrestling with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), many of whom are often wrongly rubber-stamped with the label “low intelligence.”
“I want to help families and schools connect with our real intelligence, personality and potential. I want us to be better able to express our love and appreciation and more fully participate in our own medical treatment and education. I want to dispel myths and misunderstandings that impede these connections. I was mislabeled as mentally incompetent and low intelligence for most of my childhood.”
John plans to attend college beginning in January 2016 to pursue a major in pastoral leadership and a minor in peace and justice. He has declared a commitment to advocacy for educational rights for the nonverbal autistic in general education during his college years. Learn more about him on his free membership site, AuthenticJohn.com, and on SavedByTyping.com, the website of the not-for-profit organization he co-founded. (websites opens in new window)
A Case for Action
In April of 2012, John wrote this essay as a class assignment in support of his belief that self-advocacy is a necessary tool for disabled individuals to attain the education they need and deserve, as well as their other lawful rights as American citizens.
“It is estimated that 110,000 people nationwide, including a number of severely autistic children and young adults like myself, are trapped in unresponsive bodies. Being trapped, we are unable to communicate without a trained expert to discover us. We can’t tell our parents that we love them, can’t explain what hurts when sick, can’t explain what medicines are doing, and can’t make basic choices in life that others take for granted. Without communication, we can’t explain why we behave in certain ways or what we are experiencing.
Our parents can’t know our voices, love, level of intelligence, or how to help us best. Our doctors have to guess about care because there is no way to understand from us what is working or any side effects. We can’t communicate with brothers or sisters. For me, it was like being buried alive for 16 1/2 years. The isolation was terrible. I know many more kids over the years whom I believe are still in the same circumstances that, only by grace, I escaped through Supported Typing, also called Facilitated Communication.”
Read the complete essay on John’s blog, AuthenticJohn.com. (opens in new window)
Books by this Author
In addition to his soon-to-be-released book, From Autism’s Tomb: Ten Secrets that Transform Everything, John already has three other books in the works, Every Child Can be Saved, The 7 Houses of Our Being, and The Way of the Nonverbal. A pre-release version of From Autism’s Tomb is available for purchase as a Kindle download on Amazon.com.