“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.” – Peyton Goddard
Peyton Goddard was born to Patrick and Dianne Goddard on December 26, 1974, in San Diego, California. She was the second of two children. From the age of three, Peyton was deemed unfit to attend classes with “normal” kids because of her inability to speak or control her physical movements or bodily functions.
For two decades, she was segregated in schools with no appropriate accommodations for her learning, which only exacerbated her movement challenges and led to increasingly restrictive placements and social exclusion. During her years in the special education system, she experienced the unrelenting traumatic stress of daily being unable to obey the commands of her instructors, who viewed her as purposely “non-compliant.” She was the victim of aversive restraints, punitive seclusion, and physical, mental, and sexual abuse. Unable to tell her parents of this abuse, she could express herself only through self-destructive behaviors.
However, on March 21 of 1997, Peyton’s life changed dramatically when she was introduced to an innovative communication strategy called Facilitated Communication (FC), which uses applied resistance to enable intentional movement and communication through a keyboard or computer. Among her first words, Peyton typed, “i am intlgent.” For the first time, she had a reliable method for communicating with others and has since been supported by numerous trained facilitators. Peyton was finally able to request a real education and within a year found the courage to begin telling her parents about her experiences of abuse and neglect during her youth.
Peyton enrolled in Cuyamaca College in the fall of 1998. Four years later, she graduated as the valedictorian with a nearly 4.0 GPA and an Associate’s degree in General Studies, becoming the first person using supported typing to graduate valedictorian from a U.S. college.
Since then, Peyton has become an advocate for inclusion in education and society. Her wisdom is sought after by educators, doctors, parents and community groups nationwide, who have invited her to deliver more than 75 presentations at conferences and universities on the subject of esteeming all people. In 1995, she was awarded the Collaborative Advocacy Award from TASH, an international organization promoting inclusion and supported participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of life. In 2003, Peyton was awarded CALTASH’s annual Mary Falvey Outstanding Young Person Award.
Peyton writes passionately about her experiences and offers a rare perspective of autism by someone labeled as “low functioning.” In l993, even before she learned to communicate using a keyboard, she made a vow to herself (she calls it her I.O.U.) that the rest of her life would be devoted to “quietly changing this worrisome world.” She knows that children are dying in institutions and at the hands of parents who have lost sight of their child’s value. Her story has been featured in numerous publications such as the San Diego Union-Tribune and she recently co-authored the foreword of a book for K-12 educators entitled Collaborating With Students in Instruction and Decision Making (Corwin Press, 2010). Peyton has completed her book, co-authored with her mother Dianne and Carol Cujec, entitled i am intelligent: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey from Heartbreak to Healing. Peyton considers i am intelligent, along with her continued advocacy, the fulfillment of her I.O.U.