Non-Speaking Autistic Woman Writes Book

Barb knew some would doubt the words she typed were hers, because she needed a facilitator when she first began typing. Undeterred, she spent the next 10 years learning to type independently, one index finger jabbing at a letter at a time.
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Barb Rentenbach's funny, poignant and beautiful must-read book, I Might Be You: An Exploration of Autism and Connection, is now available as an audiobook.

(Full disclosure: Barb, who is non-speaking and autistic, asked me to be her voice for the audiobook, an honor I cannot begin to fully express. The "payment" I receive in having agreed is the joy I feel knowing that Barb was pleased with the final product. That any of you may benefit by reading or hearing Barb's book is the metaphoric icing on an already-sumptuous and exquisitely-rich cake.)

Barb writes with a sharp-witted, R-rated, take-no-prisoners eloquence. She is brutally honest in her description of her life. No topic is off limits. For anyone who has ever felt marginalized, didn't "fit in," or felt judged, criticized, rejected or misunderstood, this book will resonate. I Might Be You is about how we are more alike than not.

I asked Barb and Lois Prislovsky, Barb's therapist and co-author, to give me their thoughts on the making of the audiobook. Lois wrote:

Barb typed, "Being heard may be as close to helping to cure all that ails ya as one prescription gets." I agree. As a psychologist, I get a daily front row seat to this truth. What I find most remarkable about Barb is not her spectacular growing wisdom, wit, or even her gifted powers of perception. It's her patience that I think is unparalleled. This book literally took her over 10 years to write, one disappointment, milestone, and letter at a time. No one book or person has taught me more. Barb is my favorite author and teacher.

Barb knew some would doubt the words she typed were hers, because she needed a facilitator when she first began typing. Undeterred, she spent the next 10 years learning to type independently, one index finger jabbing at a letter at a time as she pushed beyond her physical and neurological challenges that made typing on her own so difficult. Ten years.

I wrote about my experience being directed by Barb in the recording studio here, here and here on my blog, Emma's Hope Book, but I wanted Barb to say what it was like for her to hear her words spoken aloud. Barb wrote:

in preparation for this piece, az asked me to "let me not speak for you but rather hand the [HuffPost] mic over to you."

i think she just cured my autism. and what a great slogan "mics to mutes" makes.

before some poor clerk from the dmv (department of miracle validation) at the vatican calls my number, please know I am still an autistic mute so it will just go to voice mail. but, i have finally been freed from 4 decades of ills. it turns out being heard may be as close curing all that ails ya as one prescription gets.

for 40 years, autism has been seen by all to hold me back. today, autism propelled me forward as my whole self towards my life's goal of being a successful writer.

am i dreaming? yes. and this dream i hand pecked.

az asked specifically what is my experience of hearing my words being read by another.

well, it is healing. for several years now, people have read the words i typed and that has allowed me to accomplish a more independent and quality life. but those words were read. meaning people ran them through their personality filters and voice boxes and simply got my gist. the gift az is referring to is completely different.

my lourdes miracle cure happened at the hangar studios in nyc. there, my great difficulties in communicating and forming relationships were lifted -- permanently. this spectacular healing happened when a beautifully open woman with a strong, feminine, and southern twang free voice gifted me what i lacked with no cords attached. my not so virgin az appeared and did not read my gist. she got out and selflessly let me drive her luxury voice for a full week to transport my 10 years of pecked letters to let my 40 years of not talking be heard.

i still don't look normal. i appear quite messed up and a prime candidate for nothing but pity and patronization with a sprinkling of repulsion and fear. i am disguised as a poor thinker with a filthy squeegee whom most veer to avoid.

like me, like you, like "THEM," poetry is best heard. two of my favorite lines from derrick brown's poetry are, "dumb as a bomb on a boomerang" and "kiss like u couldn't beat cancer." being heard is key.

we are all each other's cure. god cares about us all through us all.

please say this out loud as i am borrowing your voice to be heard again (only a lunatic would give up voice jacking at this point. plus think of the icky karma involved if one denies an autistic mute such a simple request). "i will not be as dumb as a bomb on a boomerang. i will be here and hear like i couldn't beat cancer so today i free myself and others from illness and injury."

hear and ask to be heard.

thanks for listening. healthy b

Barb and Lois at Hangar Studios in New York City -- April, 2013


Ariane Zurcher can be found on her blog: Emma's Hope Book.

For Emma's Hope Book Facebook page click here.

For more by Ariane Zurcher, click here.

For more on autism, click here.

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