Inspiring Women with Autism: Lucy Blackman

Lucy  BlackmanLucy Blackman was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1972. She was diagnosed with autism at a young age and is nonverbal, relying on facilitated communication, which she learned at the age of 14 at Melbourne’s DEAL communication centre, run by Rosemary Crossley.

In 2001, she became the first nonverbal individual with autism in Australia to publish a book, Lucy’s Story, describing her life as a person with autism. She’s written several other books, including Talking of MacBeth, a collection of short stories, and contributed to Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone.

LucyBlackmantalkingofmacbethShe is also an advocate who gives presentations on her experiences with autism and the ways that facilitated communication has changed her life. Critics of facilitated communication claim that the words are actually being produced by the facilitator, rather than from the individual with autism. She finds it interesting that people are more interested in facilitated communication, as opposed to what she actually has to say. She says,

“I find it difficult to understand why other people are more interested in the process of what I produce than the content.”

Douglas Biklin, producer of the documentary Autism is a World, wrote the introduction to Lucy’s chapter in Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone. He says,

“In all my personal interactions with Lucy Blackman, I have found her opinionated, articulate, humorous, ever so candid, and always ready to challenge my ideas or anyone else’s. In her chapter, these qualities persist. At several points, she suggests that my questions are from a nonautistic perspective and therefore not about topics that she would herself choose to discuss; she seems to find mine annoying.

“For that matter, she questions other normate takes on autism as well. For example, she points out that if experts insist on focusing on communication impairment and social interaction as diagnostic markers for autism, then the field may fail to notice other factors that lead to these ‘pecularities.'”

Lucy shares her perspectives on The Brotherhood of the Wordless blog (http://brotherhoodofthewordless.com/our-authors/lucy-blackman/). She says,

“Lucy, child-woman. And brain on damaged brainstem, which misdirects signals from active body to intelligent mind. Yes – I am a writer and a poet – and I actually composed poetry in my soul, and then my mind, when all my language was inside me. Now I write for fun, and so I need to stand outside myself and look at who I am.”

She says,

“My most memorable experience was being aware I had language in my head – that was when I had the ability to read with meaning, and no one knew. I was really sad. I was only five.”

She goes on to say,

“The moment that I saw other people . . . using typing was extraordinary; the first time then I realised that I was not the only intelligent person without language, or speech, rather. The whole of my world changed.”

Lucy’s latest book, Carrying Autism, Feeling Language, is available at bookinhand.com.au.