I have been speaking to Duane who uses Morse Code as a form of communication and thought it would be an interesting article to share. Duane made contact after enjoying watching my Tedx talk and thought he would contact me to share about his favourite way of communicating with Morse Code.
Anna Kennedy OBE
Duane Wyatts ATOU School Workshop Presentation ( September 28,2017)
(“Hello, my name is Duane and I am happy to be here today.” (this message is given to the students in Morse code to start my presentation).)You may have guessed that this was a message given in the secret language called Morse code. It is really how I like to talk to people. I don’t like to use my voice, I wish that I could talk to everyone in Morse code. I will speak more about Morse towards the end of my speech, but the message I sent was: “ Hello, my name is Duane and I am happy to be here today.”
I will be talking to this table or the floor or anywhere else except looking at you while I give this speech. I have a form of autism and have been this way all my life. You will learn more about autism later in the workshop today, but basically, my mind and brain is wired differently from you. It is not contagious, so you do not have to worry about catching it. I want to also stress that no two people with autism are the same clinically. Each person with autism shows slightly different clinical signs. I want to stress to you that the issues I discuss with you today are my personal struggles with autism and will not be seen in exactly the same way in another person with autism.
I had a twin brother, his name was Dean, and I was really lucky because he did not have autism- he was a typical person, just like you. My struggles with autism revolve around “people issues”. I have no “people skills”, I do not like to be around people and like to be by myself. I would never have been able to make any friends without Dean. He was the one who made the friends for both of us and he did much of the talking for both of us. I did not like to talk (and still don’t) unless I had to. Dean and I were almost always together and Dean always felt a responsibility to “’take care of me” because of my issues with autism. Again, I was really lucky to have Dean to help me because most people with autism have to make it through life on their own- they do not have a twin brother to help them, like I did.
“School”, I wanted to mention school to you because I did not like school because of all the people and commotion. You probably remember your first day of kindergarten, it was not that long ago for you. It was 60 years ago for me and the only thing that I remember about my first day of kindergarten was “tall grass”. I was so stressed out that first day of school by all the people and commotion that I had to escape. My way of escape was running away from school. It was distressing for a lot of people because they were looking all over town for me. I was finally found hiding in tall grass in a ditch close to the school.
Some people with autism will not look at you when they talk to you- they will look away. This is pretty obvious with me. Sixty years ago, people did not know much about autism- my parents did not know I had autism, I did not know and my teachers did not know. My parents did notice that I did not start talking until I was four years of age. They excused this observation by saying that I did not feel the need to talk because Dean was talking. They did give me an IQ test because of their concern. My basketball coach was curious about it one day and came up to me after practice and said: “Duane, why don’t you look at people when you talk to people?” I replied, ”Coach, I do not know why I am this way, I can’t answer your question- I am sorry.”
I had a wonderful childhood for someone with autism. I was raised on a farm in Iowa and had lots of large and small animals around but the only people were my family. Dean and I had chores to do every night before supper. We fed all the livestock and other animals. We liked to raise orphan lambs. These are lambs without a mom or a dad. The mom, called a “ewe” sometimes died lambing in the cold Iowa winters at night. We would have newborn lambs to feed every night after school and it was fun because the grew up very attached to Dean and I and would follow us around the farm as we did our chores.Dean and I spent lots of hours building forts, castles and tunnels in the hay barn out of hay bales. We spent lots of hours playing “cowboys and indiand” on our horses in our large pasture.
Our dad was a large animal doctor- a large animal veterinarian. He spent his days travelling to the farms around our small town treating the large animals. Dean and I often got the chance to help him with these treatments.
So, you can see how wonderful this childhood was for me, with autism. I am sure any one of you would love to have these experiences.
I want to mention my brother, Dean, once again because he deserves to be acknowledged for his awesome gift to me. Dean wanted to be a school teacher. I wanted to be a veterinarian like my dad. I knew that I would never perform well in the world of people and was comfortable working with animals. Veterinary Medicine seemed that it was made just for me. I was young, selfish and spoiled. I did not think about Dean’s feelings and Dean was always around to help me with many of my life issues growing up.
We both entered college together. Dean started to take the courses needed to be a school teacher and I started to take the courses needed to get into veterinary school. After about a year, I went up to Dean and I said to him,” Dean, I cannot go to vet. School without you- you have to go with me, I can’t do it on my own”. Dean did not want to do this, he wanted to be a school teacher. But he loved me so much that he gave up his life so that I could have my life. He never did get to become what he wanted to be in life. He and I got into vet. School together, we graduated together and practiced together for awhile.
There was another awesome gift that was given to me. This was given by a fourth grader at a school workshop, like we are having today. It was early in the morning- before the speeches started and the speakers were talking amongst themselves. There was only one student in the classroom this early in the morning. He listened to us talk for awhile and then piped up. He held up this card (I hold up the school id card he gave me) like this and said,” I like to show people this card when I meet them because I am very shy and I don’t like to talk to people. If I show people this card when I meet them, it helps me talk to them..”
In other words, what he was telling us was that this card was his tool to help him talk to people- he could not talk to them very well without showing them the card while he was speaking. This sounds weird, but he was being evaluated for autism and I am sure that he had autism.
After the speeches were over, this brave young man came up to me and said to me,” here I want you to have this, I think that it will help you- I hope that we can be friends.”(he gave me his “talking tool” id card). This brave young man cared more for me than he cared for himself. He gave up his tool to help him talk to people because he thought that it would help me talk to people. I don’t know how he is doing, but he will grow up to be a special, caring, kind and unselfish adult.
Morse Code- I was thirteen when I first heard Morse code. I was at the county fair, showing my 4-H lambs and heard the fascinating sounds. It is an old language, you can see the description of Morse on this banner here, but basically it consists of different combinations of lengths of sound or light. You can see from the alphabet here that an “A” is a dot and a dash, or a short and a long sound (make an “A” in Morse with my Morse instrument). A “B” is a long and three short sounds- a dash and three dots (make a “B” in morse with my morse instrument) and so on.
Two years ago, I found out that the U.S. military at Goodfellow air force base in Texas and at Pensacola naval air station in Florida still teach Morse code courses to military personnel who are training to be military spies. You know that morse code is the language of spies, it is how they talked to send messages. The instructor of the class at Goodfellow air force base replied to my email to him and told me that,”Yes, we do still teach Morse code courses but I cannot say more because more information is sensitive”.
(Now, I send them a final message, sent in Morse code using one of the three instruments the students see in front of me. I also have given you this same message as an audio clip attachment titled “Morse one”. This message is: “Please have fun in life, but remember to be safe, kind and caring also”). I then tell the students the meaning of this ending message to them given in Morse code and ask for questions from the students.