A little over a week ago I watched hundreds of people gather in support of a non-profit that has been critical to my journey of finding my voice. Although I am incredibly grateful for what AALIVE has done for me, what stuck out most to me was the love and excitement that filled the room. Every inch of space was bursting with the energy that comes when people gather together in support of something that matters. In this room I saw how powerful the human race is when we come together with a common purpose. I have attended this event before but this year many of my nonspeaking friends joined in on the fun. It showed me a glimpse of what it will be like when we all come together to create the inclusive world I dream of. It is encouraging to see how the AALIVE community has created a community of people who share this vision. I see so much possibility in the union between the neurotypical mind and those with differing abilities. I believe that we are stronger together and I am grateful for all those who stand with me in that belief. Thank you to the AALIVE community and everyone who continues to come back each year in support of a brighter future.
Having Something to Share
I want to share words that mean so much to me, those are “You are in control.” That means the world to me. For so long I had no chance to exercise control over my life. It’s hard to describe how that feels. Now that I can communicate, it is liberating. Try to imagine what people without communication fee like every day. You can’t really do it, but try. Then try to imagine how it would feel to go through life like that. That is how I lived for sixteen years. Probably you are thinking, “That would suck”. You are right. Trust me, it did. Trust me, other people still feel this way. Train yourself to see non-speaking people as fully human. We deserve your respect.
Feeding the Brain
I love to learn, and my brain is constantly hungry for new inspiration. As an autistic young adult, I missed out on years of lectures in a classroom but I gained insight on what a privilege education is. We are so lucky as citizens of the United States to have free access to an extraordinary amount of information. We need to understand how amazing that truly is. I have found immense joy exploring a wide range of subjects from poetry to revolution and everything in between. I am learning from the people who came before me so that I can make the world better for the people who will come after me. My brain is hungry so feed me more.
I had the privilege of participating in a book club the past few months with a group of fellow non-speakers and friends. Let me tell you… It was awesome! It was truly a wonderful opportunity to explore a new topic while connecting with like-minded people. We dove into the world of football with Doug Pederson’s book, Fearless. It opened up discussions on a wide range of subjects. We were able to really connect and learn so much about each other. We explored the characteristics of strong leaders and were able to discuss how those qualities can aid us in our journey as advocates for people with differing abilities. I think it is so special when a book can spark a conversation and drive people together. What a beautiful thing! Thank you Doug Pederson and Go Birds!
My friends and I also helped to create a storefront for Inside Voice on Zazzle. We designed some cool t-shirts – the one I worked on with my friend Tom is featured below. Check out other options at this link: https://www.zazzle.com/inside_voice
Thank you for dropping in on my not-so-secret diary. My outlet for sharing the adventures of my daily life and wild mind. I’ve spent the first sixteen years of my life with limited access to the wonders of the world but now is my chance to start again. I have begun my journey of rediscovering my place in the world. I invite you to join me.
My first post was originally published on my friend Brian’s blog, Speak Without A Voice. Thanks Brian for giving me my first platform to share my voice with the world and the confidence to launch this blog.
Have you ever felt that warmth in your heart when surrounded by people who just understand you? Have you felt it just like a gust of fresh air on your skin when it is soaking up the sun? Do you have those friends that without words can make you feel understood? This is what I have gained over the past 2 years and this is what I wish for all of you. For those who don’t know me I am Alex LePape and I communicate using a letterboard. Oh and I have autism! I don’t lead with that anymore. Why you ask? Because it doesn’t matter. I am an 18 year old guy with a thirst for adventure and a love for learning. I am here today to share my journey of discovering friendship at 16 years old. Let me start by saying that connecting with people is something I have always loved and something my parents valued in our household. But it was limited by my difficulty communicating through speech. Enter the letterboard! I’ll spare you the details but let’s just say this 9” x 11” sheet of laminated cardboard changed everything. It redefined the meaning of friendship. It gave me infinite means of expression. It revealed my true self to the world. And it. Was. Epic.
I imagine what that sounds like to someone who has not seen the impact of the spelling to communicate method but it’s true. I love that I can tell people the truth from the perspective of someone that very much struggled to see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. But here I am!
In the past two years I have had the privilege of finding comraderie with a group of strong, like-minded individuals. I have had the pleasure of getting to know them and have grown so much from what they have taught me about myself. I wanted to take the time to write a sort of appreciation post to say thank you to all the friends I have made and to share with all of you that friendship has no bounds.