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Listen to Our Stories: Words, Pictures, and Songs by Young People with Disabilities
Listen to Our Stories: Words, Pictures, and Songs by Young People with Disabilities



I Change My Stories for Speaking

Thomas P. Fay

Tom was twenty-one and going to Massachusetts Hospital School in Canton, Massachusetts, when he wrote the poem included here. Six years before, he had experienced a traumatic brain injury; caught in a drunken brawl, he had been assaulted by a youth wielding a baseball bat. Tom was in a coma for nearly a month and didn’t start speaking again for another two months. Now, nearly six years later, he had aphasia, which made speaking and writing, as well as reading, extremely difficult for him. Additionally, his right side was paralyzed, so that he walked with a limp and had limited use of his right hand. He also had hearing loss in his left ear and peripheral blindness.

At first, doctors had not expected Tom to regain any of his faculties. Later, when in spite of their predictions he did begin to recover, they still dismissed the possibility that he would be reading, writing, or walking again. Nevertheless, Tom returned in a limited way not only to these activities but to others as well: For one, he began dancing again. He also took up painting (before the injury, drawing had been his medium) and more recently became enthralled with drawing by computer.

Tom wrote the poem below during speech-therapy sessions at his school. The therapist assisted Tom with editing — helping him weed out phrases that were superfluous to his intended meaning — and with punctuation.

When I’m Dreaming a Dream, You’re Touching My Soul

Living in a life for no speak
would be confused, angry, embarrassed.
I am living — proud of it.
I can’t understand people talking sometimes,
I can’t express my words and feelings sometimes,
speaking for what you’re saying.
I can’t understand you for your speaking but I’m not
deaf and I’m happy for my voice.

What can I do?
“Excuse me, Miss, Mrs., or Mr., repeat it again please.”
People say, “Can’t understand you.”
I change my stories for speaking.

I am happy for speaking my friends,
because I am a People Person.

For more information about the disabilities discussed in this story, please visit the Resource Links page.




spacerLinda Hillyer, compiler and editor of Listen to Our Stories
logo art by Adiyana Paramita
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