to prove that you exist

{Image is a photo of Sharisa Kochmeister  – source.}

Sharisa Kochmeister is, in many ways, severely disabled. At 36 years-old, she is non-verbal. She requires significant support.

Sharisa Kochmeister is, in many ways, unquestionably competent. Able to type with a single finger when supported by her sister or father, she obtained dual degrees, with honors, from the University of Denver. As a member of the Autism Society’s Panel of People on the Spectrum, tasked with providing “expertise and guidance to the Autism Society in all aspects of its work,” and including “some of the most recognized and influential names in the autism community,” she was described as follows:

Sharisa Joy Kochmeister is a writer/advocate/researcher/educator regarding the rights of children and adults with disabilities. She holds an honors degree in sociology and psychology from the University of Denver. Ms. Kochmeister publishes and manages a new electronic free magazine called The Voices and Choices of Autism. She was appointed by two consecutive governors to the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council and is now an elected executive committee member of that board. Ms. Kochmeister conducts on-site seminars, needs assessments and in-service training at many organizations and schools. She is as an expert consultant/advocate in the areas of disabilities, communication, assistance, adaptive technology and inclusive education, and has delivered keynote addresses in a variety of venues. She is a published poet, author and songwriter, and her life story has been featured in journals, print media and broadcast media. She also writes poetry and stories.

Source

On her own blog, she described herself as follows:

I’m 31* now, have autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, dyspraxia and a genius IQ; and communicate almost entirely via keyboards. I am former President of Autcom, on the Panel of Advisors on the Spectrum for the Autism Society of America; publisher and managing editor in chief and writer for “The Voices and Choices of Autism” and so on, and etc. I am also a university graduate with a dual degree in Sociology & Psychology with honors and awards; a consultant, an advocate, and a FABULOUS FRIEND! 😉

Source

* Last updated in 2010

According to the Denver Post, back in March, Sharisa’s father was accused of abusing her after he was seen using his finger to clear her throat when she vomited in the hospital. From a bystander’s perspective, it appeared that she kicked him and he then pushed her. It was all on videotape. Police were called. After investigating, the DA did not find sufficient evidence to bring charges.

But Jefferson County Human Services decided that hers was a case of Munchausen by proxy and took guardianship of Sharisa. They put her in a nursing home. They restricted her father’s access to her, and, more importantly, hers to him. They tested her IQ. With no way to communicate, she was, unsurprisingly, determined to be severely mentally disabled. Her IQ, they said, is 47.

In the article cited aboveJeremy Meyer ends with the following:

Her father only recently got to visit his daughter, who finally felt comfortable enough to type again. County workers there witnessed the loving relationship and asked why she hadn’t been talking with them.

Sharisa said it was because she didn’t like or trust them, [Julie Reiskin, Director of the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition] said.

It is no wonder why.

Sharisa remains in the custody of the county. As I type, she is in a nursing home at 36 with restricted access to those she loves because no one is listening to her.

On her blog, My Surreal Life, the last post feels eerily prophetic. In it, Sharisa shared the response to Emily Dickinson’s poem, I’m Nobody! Who are you?  that she had written at age fifteen:

I’M SOMEBODY
[A REPLY TO EMILY DICKINSON’S “I’M NOBODY”]

I’M SOMEBODY! YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE.
AREN’T YOU – SOMEBODY – TOO?
I HOPE WE CAN BE A PAIR!
SO THERE! IT’S LESS LONELY – YOU KNOW!

HOW DREARY – TO BE – NOBODY!
HOW LONESOME – LIKE THE MIST –
TO SHOUT YOUR NAME – IN EMPTINESS –
TO PROVE THAT YOU EXIST!

SHARISA JOY
4-24-94

How lonesome it must be, she wrote, to shout your name in emptiness … to prove that you exist.

To help, please sign and share THIS. Thank you.

15 thoughts on “to prove that you exist

  1. Why now? Why has the family doing a petition now. Change.com has been on the internet for a few years now. If love is the word so often used why is love just used now for a petition that could have bee a few years earlier. Just weird, i dont get why love had to wait til 2015? Will sign petition.Soo sad.

  2. I signed. My heart hurts for them. As the mother of an apraxic child, I fear this exact thing could happen to our family. Just because he can’t speak clearly or be understood by many does NOT mean that’s he’s not a smart, capable kid. I hope that this family can be reunited soon.

  3. Have been very disturbed this situation. As a retired nurse, and a mother who was trained at the University of Arkansas Speech and Hearing clinic, how to support my daughter with AAC, I understand so well how hard it can be for Sharissa to try to communicate,mthat she wants to say, and then for it to be taken away. This imprisonment is horrifying to me. I am praying for her and the family, to have immediate justice.

    I hope the pain this has caused you all, will heal overtime. I know we have had years of nightmares of our own, due to communication disability, and our fighting for our daughter right to inclusion. Yet it cannot compare to this.

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