Seeing the Beauty of Each Other and Ourselves by Vanessa Finnigan
What does disability mean to you? Some might say it’s about being unable to do a range of things that many people take for granted. For others, it may be communicating, behaving and looking a certain way that is considered different or outside the ‘norm’. If we could see each other through the eyes of gratitude, I wonder what that would create?
It was a windy summer’s day last December when I met Glen Sheppard, his mum Pam and reconnected again with Delany Delaney. They drove out to our place in the country and we sat together on our deck gazing at the 360 degree views of undulating mountains, sharing some expansive moments together, mixed with a whole lot of fun and laughter.
Glen is 37 years old and just like a lot of other Aussie blokes, enjoys a beer or two and chips with family and friends. From a medical perspective, he was born with Down’s syndrome and diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and has very little verbal communication. Delany has been his carer/friend and co-creator for 17 years and she assists him to communicate using an alphabet board and what is called facilitated communication.
Instead of going through every letter slowly on the board to communicate, Delany communicates telepathically (sometimes with or without the board) to create more speed and ease with communicating Glen’s message. Delany mentioned this started happening about three years ago and was “a bit freaky” when Glen started communicating with her in this way. “Neither of us knew how to handle it, there was no one to talk to about it and people projected at us. It was too far out there. That stopped us from working together for a while, which was difficult for both of us,” she shared.
Delany discovered the tools of Access Consciousness and founder Gary Douglas was the first person to really acknowledge the capacities both she and Glen have. Delany is now a certified Access Consciousness Facilitator and the Access tools have helped them both to keep communicating telepathically and offering facilitation to others.
It is clear to me Glen’s first language is not with words, it’s with energy and his mum Pam said he is often ‘working on people energetically’ to assist with dissolving the ‘walls’ so they can receive more from the universe. Delany said, “to communicate with Glen, you have to drop all your barriers. There is nothing that Glen does not know about me.”
Delany has a long history of working with people ‘labelled disabled’ and has created a very special connection with Glen and many others. She first met Glen and Pam at a local community event in Queensland called, “Performing Arts with Florence” and realised Glen could communicate in a different way and he could also write, (in fact he had just written his first book at the age of 20).
Glen doesn’t let his ‘disability’ get in the way of living a fascinating life; he writes poetry, has completed tertiary studies and has written two books; one of which is a murder mystery and the lead character has autism.
So this is not about saying that autism or other ‘conditions’ don’t exist, or pretending people with disabilities and their families don’t have challenging times. But the nature of any label means that it is one dimensional and doesn’t encompass the bright shining being. I wonder what sort of world we would create if we saw people in all their glory and what if ‘difference’ was not seen as bad, or wrong?
Delany shared that because Glen has chosen the form he has in this life, it’s easy to see that his reality is so much more different than other people’s; he doesn’t even see the same visually as us. But it’s not just people who have obvious physical differences that feel ‘too different’. She said, “How much do we presume that we ‘get’ somebody, when we don’t know what that person’s reality is. And so I love that people like Glen come here to slam something different into the mix and into creation of a different reality and they operate in a different way. They are heightening our awareness of that. We have all these things in common but we are really different and to presume we know what is going on in someone’s reality is a limitation. What about if we lived being in the question and asked what else is possible? What I got from Glen, my friend here is, to be present in a way I wasn’t being before we began this journey together.”
Glen shared, “There is a space that is required now. It’s time to move beyond being worried if you fit, because most of us never really did. So if we can be with that and be with that space of ‘there actually isn’t separation’, we only create separation, then it’s easier for us to move forward. When we are caught up in trying to fit and trying to make sure we are not left on the edges, that actually creates the ‘being left on the edges’ that we are trying to avoid and it is not from trying to fit in that I have created what I have created. It is more that we are willing to be everything that we be and yes it is a journey, we become more and more, but it is that space of being willing to be that, that actually gives us people who have our backs. So truly we are never alone. Our energy goes on and on, there is no end. Could we ever be alone? When we are willing to move past all the projections of what our lives are supposed to look like and what is supposed to bring us joy, then we can truly receive everything and so we are never really alone. When we get out of the ‘head tripping’ and acknowledge that we are actually picking up on thoughts and feeling of other people and what is going on in other parts of the world, even if we don’t watch the news, that doesn’t negate that we are aware of an energy that is there, that is discomforting and so when we are willing to push down the barriers and not separate, everything becomes easier.”
Delany commented that whatever they do, it’s about creating a very different way of being with people, the animals and with the planet. “When we are willing to move beyond assumption, projection and judgement, there are so many more possibilities and miracles and magic right here waiting for us to receive. And joy, fun and kindness are paramount and you don’t have to separate from others to have your own identity.”
Delany, Pam and Glen are currently travelling the world and Delany and Glen offer classes and talks using the tools of Access Consciousness. They share their music (both write the lyrics and music) with audiences far and wide and are also working on an album together and a project called ‘Out of the Blue’. And they would like to have their message in front of as many people as they can, in as many countries and translated to as many languages as possible.
I felt like we could have spent the whole day together as there was such a palpable sense of peace with us all sitting on our deck on that windy summer’s day. After Delany, Glen and Pam left, I reflected on my first job as a provisional psychologist, conducting I.Q assessments and providing counselling for people through Disability Services Victoria at the age of twenty-two. Many families received extra support and respite because of the assessment and eligibility process, but I had a knowing about the area of ‘disability’ that I wasn’t able to ‘realise’ until I met Glen Sheppard and had his wisdom conveyed through Delany Delaney. What if now is the time to receive and see ourselves fully and find any ways we are dis-abling ourselves from being who we really are?