“Treasure all because great is each” is Peyton Goddard’s credo. She is a tireless advocate on behalf of valuing all people, especially those most vulnerable to devaluation, segregation and abuse, as she was for several decades when she lacked a dependable mode of communication. Her teachings center on “changing this worrisome world” through compassionate understanding and support for all.
Her commitment to advocacy for peace, both personal and global, grew out of her own experiences. As she says, “Personally I saw a life I’ll never want anyone to teach as acceptable for any human being.” As a child, Peyton was labeled severely mentally retarded and low-functioning autistic and, as a result, deemed unfit for public schools. Despite her parents’ best efforts to support her, Peyton suffered years of neglect and abuse in institutions where she was considered incapable of learning. By age sixteen, she was deeply depressed. Medicines offered no help. Her parents pulled her out of the restrictive placement, and armed with an early 1990’s TASH newsletter, Peyton’s path from segregation toward inclusion began. In 1995, still voiceless, she and her team flew to San Francisco to accept the TASH Collaboration Award, for significantly helping an individual with a disability realize the goal of full community inclusion and participation. However, Peyton’s uncooperative body continued to hinder her ability to communicate until she was introduced to supported typing at age 22 and she typed her first words: “i am intlgent.” Five years later, she became the first person using facilitated communication to graduate valedictorian from a U.S. college.
Whether leading story-time for elementary children, presenting at national conferences, advising future educators in university credentialing classes, or speaking to community organizations, she maintains her focus on helping others. “Yearns are in all persons to be verifiably valued and supported by their sisters and brothers. Understand there is treasure real in all humans. Though different each, we are forged with great gifts. Together we are in human union one. There, together, supporting each other to lives of worth, lies ultimate peace for all.”
In 2003, Peyton produced a video of her life entitled Helium Hearts. The following year at CalTASH, she was awarded the Mary Falvey Outstanding Young Person Award, which annually goes to a young person who has demonstrated the values of Cal-TASH through their service or participation in activities promoting inclusion for all people. In 2012, she published her memoir, I AM INTELLIGENT. She also shared her story in the recent film Restraint and Seclusion: Hear our Stories by Dan Habib, filmmaker at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. As Peyton says, “Understaters utter I’m no one. I’m broken, moldy bread, throwaway trash, great leper. Now I know I’m a voice of never-heard voices. Nothings need to be heard.” According to Pat Amos, writing in TASH Connections, Peyton is part of “a new generation of self-advocates who have found a voice through assistive technology and specialized support strategies. What they are saying deserves our full attention.” Peyton lives with support in her own apartment, adjacent to her parent’s home in San Diego, California.
- Short Bio:Writer, Presenter, and Advocate for Inclusion