Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

Joshua The Writer with Amy Greiner

This week, we’re going to speak with Amy Greiner. She’s the mother of Joshua Greiner, who is a nonspeaking autistic writer and poet, and he recently had some lyrics featured on an album by Brian Laidlaw called “Silently Loud.” There was a concert here in Tucson last Sunday and we wanted to get her impressions of how things went.

Today is February 5th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app. Reach us by email [email protected] — interact with us on Facebook at LifeAlongTheStreetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from Brian Laidlaw with lyrics from Joshua Greiner, “Love That’s Real.”

Transcript (Unedited)

Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the old Pueblo and you are listening to Ktdt Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsor and all volunteer rock and roll radio station.

This week, we’re going to speak with Amy Greiner. She’s the mother of Joshua Greiner, who is a nonspeaking autistic writer and poet, and he recently had some lyrics featured on an album by Brian Laidlaw called “Silently Loud.” There was a concert here in Tucson last Sunday and we wanted to get her impressions of how things went.

Today is February 5, 2023. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to life along the streetcar. Each and every Sunday are focused on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core. We shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on, also available on your iPhone or Android.

By using our very own Downtown Radio Tucson app, you can interact with us on the show here by going to Facebook and Instagram. If you want more information about what we do, our book, our past episodes, or just want to contact us, head over to our website, And of course, you can listen to the podcast on many different platforms like Spotify, itunes, and simply asking your smart speaker to play Life Along the Streetcar podcast. Well, today we’ve got another special show with Amy Griner. She’s the mother of Joshua Griner. And about two weeks ago, we had a duo on Brian Laid logs, a musician out of Utah, and Tyler Meyer of the director at the Poetry Center here in Tucson. They were combining forces to bring Brian to Tucson for his concert of an album he recently released called Silently Loud. And that album is made up of music written by Brian to accompany lyrics written by non speaking autistic writers. Two of them were here in Tucson. Alton Grubbs and Joshua Griner.

They both were in attendance. There was a little Q and A and it was a very enlightening experience for myself. And I think a lot of the people in attendance were blown away with the depth of the lyrics that were written. So I wanted to catch up with Joshua’s mom, Amy, see what she thought, what Joshua thought, and kind of where all this might lead. So we have Amy Griner, the mother of now, I guess, rock star Joshua Griner. We talked to Brian Laidlaw a couple of weeks ago and Tyler Meyer from the University of Arizona Poetry Center about this concert from Brian’s album Silently Loud, which will be available for streaming soon. And he wrote the music to accompany the lyrics that were all created by non speaking individuals with autism and who are also prolific writers. And that concert was just amazing. Amy, I hope you kind of felt the same way.

Oh, my gosh, yes. It was so exciting. So exciting to see non speaking autistic voices be celebrated and to see their strengths. And my son, who was one of the ones whose words were shared, he was just so excited. He was so excited. We saw him, Tom. He was just walking around doing a lot of yelling because he was excited. So, yeah, it was a great event.

And he’s heard these songs before, but this is the first time they were done in a public setting, correct?

Yeah, that’s right. I don’t think he had heard all of them. He had heard several of them. He had heard his he had heard the one of Alton’s that was shared and he had heard the one of Danny Witty’s that was shared. He knows both of them personally and socially, but there was a few that he hadn’t heard. There were several that I hadn’t heard. So it was fun to hear them.

All together based upon the I mean, it was a very welcoming audience and I think not just because of the writers themselves, but the music was the words and the lyrics were really strong and really powerful.

Yeah, I think a lot of times people think that they’re going to be kind of childish lyrics or something for some reason. But my son is a very accomplished poet. He’s had a couple of poetry readings here in Tucson and other places. His words and Alton’s words. And all of the writers, I mean, they have very rich interior lives and have been working on poetry writing and other forms of creative expression for a long time. And, yeah, I think there’s just some really amazing lyrics and material in there and it just really ran the full gamut from really kind of love songs and soft and gentle to really, like, rockin. And that one about the space disaster, whatever.

Yeah. The Saturn Rocket five. You were doomed. That’s so cleverly written.

I got to hear that one again.

Yeah, I’m looking forward to that album coming out so I can get a chance to revisit some of those songs. There were a lot of energy in those. And I have to say that when I first asked you to come on and do this interview, my thought was going to be about this concert and what this concert meant for Joshua and others. But I have to say, somewhat embarrassingly. I learned so much yesterday about autism and where we are now versus where we may have been when I first understood what autism even was. And as you walked in, there were slides of organization, which we’ll talk about today from your Teva community. There were slides and it had pictures and words from these nonspeaking individuals. And there was such a similarity between what they said on the screen, what a lot of these lyrics referred to, and kind of what you had just alluded to with this inner journey and being able to, for really the first time express this inner journey to an outside audience. And that was just amazingly impactful

and life changing for each one of those individuals.

Yeah, I mean, it’s really huge. We’re really on the kind of whole new wave of a real new understanding of autism, especially when it comes to non speaking autistic people. Up until really recently, they’ve been assumed to not understand things because their body can’t show that it understands things and they’ve been assumed to lack empathy, to not have any emotions. And really, thankfully, now that some of these methods are coming out and they can communicate their thoughts fully, we’re showing that nothing would be further from the truth. If anything, my son is more empathetic than anyone I know. He has kind of hyper empathy, which makes it difficult for him because he feels a lot of emotions that are from other people and he’s just very sensitive and tuned into that.

And I think a lot of the lyrics also showed a really high level of attention to detail that many of us going about our daily lives don’t necessarily really fully understand. And there was one song that talked about a leaf floating like Noah’s Ark and they can immediately get that imagery and everything that he talked about in that song, or I think it was a she that talked about that in that song. It was so powerful of how simple things and another lyric that I loved that was a song about little things that ended talking about all those things actually being great things. Not little things that we call them little things, but they truly are great things.

Yeah, that was Alton’s song and that one was really powerful. And I think I see that with a lot of them. It’s really kind of this crystallized vision. And with my son, even though he can communicate now, it’s a very slow, laborious process where there’s a letter board and he points to each letter individually and he has to really focus his eyes and get his whole body able to do this. So it takes a lot of work. And so I think a lot of the times if I could only speak one paragraph a day, what would I say? It would probably be something pretty important. It’d be something I would have thought out a lot. So I think that is something to it.

Yeah, definitely an efficiency and a succinctness of getting that message across because you don’t have the luxury of just talking until it makes sense.


I think one of the interesting things for me too is the question and answer at the end. So after the performance, there were some questions that had been given in advance to Joshua and Alton who were the two Tucson riders who were both in attendance and very thoughtful responses to each of those questions. But even as spontaneous questions that came through. And I happened to be sitting right behind you and Joshua as you were going through. And I can see the amount of time and energy to create a single sentence. Not only him having to point and create it, but you also having to understand it, interpret it, and I guess sometimes figure out where the breaks are in the words. But can you tell us a little bit about this? Because this is fairly new, this spelling, it’s within the last ten years, right?

Yeah, something like that. It’s called rapid prompting method, is the way that Joshua learned, otherwise known as Rpm. There’s also something called spelling to communicate, which uses an S and a number two and a C, which are basically spelling methods that kind of slow the body down, because a lot of times their minds can just be going, you know, a million miles a minute and slows the body down. Really focuses on a high and intellect type of lesson or something that you’re gathering. So if you’re just asking them to spell the word red, it’s a lot of work that goes into it. It’s not going to be worth it for them to do that. But if you are talking about a lesson, about something that they’re interested in, and then you’re asking them questions based on that, that’s kind of how the whole system of teaching these methods works. And it takes a long process. Some people get it, pick it up really quickly, depending on how their motor system, their motor planning abilities that they have. Others,

it can take a long time because so many different aspects go into being able to communicate in this way. You have to really control your fine motor, you have to control your large motor to be able to sit in a chair. You have to control your eyes. All these things are quite a challenge for Joshua. Sometimes when he’s pointing the letters and spelling, sometimes he needs to be reminded, okay, touch the space bar between words so you can kind of see where it breaks down. Or sometimes he might touch the wrong letter at one point, and you kind of need to backtrack and be like, okay, let’s really focus and stay on that. So there’s a lot of kind of coaching the body in terms of helping them stay calm, helping them stay regulated so that they can get out the points that they want to say with.

Anything that is evolving like this. The support, not just for Joshua and the non speaking individuals, for the families, the caregivers, those that are providing that support, they need to understand this process too.

Yeah, it’s a big learning curve, and it still is for me and Josh really started when he was 13, starting the spelling methods when he was 18. As he has said, he saw someone doing it with some support. This person was kind of pushing back on the forearm or the wrist. And so when he was 18, we added that element in there and so that’s what you actually saw us doing. And that really helps him. That’s all he wants to do now. That helps him to stay focused and he gets a lot more language out.

Now he’s 21 and he’s doing amazing. So it takes a lot of takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of continuous education for myself, too. He does a lot of one thing that’s kind of hard for me to still wrap my mind around is he does a lot of yelling, which you saw. When he gets excited, he yells and it sounds like when he yells, it sounds to me I still feel like that he must be upset or he must be hungry or maybe someone hurt his feelings or maybe he’s uncomfortable or nervous. But when he’s able to tell me, I would say nine times out of ten, it’s that he’s excited about something. And so we might be taking him out to a park and if he starts yelling, we used to think, oh, he hates this, we should go back home, when really he was just excited about it. And so he’s able to communicate that to us now.

We’re in the middle of our interview with Amy Griner, mother of Joshua Griner, who has recently featured on Brian Laidlaw’s album Silently Loud with lyrics by Joshua and other non speaking autistic writers. We’ll be back to that in just a moment. But first I want to remind you that you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar in Downtown Radio and 99.1 FM and streaming on

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And we’re back that’s pretty fast. We’ve got Amy Grinder here. We’re going to get to the second half of the interview and talk a little bit about what life was like for Joshua and Amy and their family prior to some of the methods that they’ve been using for Josh. To communicate and dig more deeply into support groups and communities that are out there that you might want to support or learn more of yourself. I think he indicated that until this method came out, he was trying so hard with YouTube videos or toys or doing things to try to communicate. So he’s always had this. I can only imagine his frustration of trying to get these across. And from an outward perspective, we’re just not even seeing it.

Yeah, I think it’s impossible to even think about. And one of the questions that was posed to them, which he chose not to answer because he said it was too painful, was what was your life like before you could communicate? And I know that’s something that is just very upsetting for him because you think about he was 13 before we really because all the doctors and therapists were telling us that he just didn’t understand. And we kept thinking, you know, I feel like he does because every once in a while he would come up with something on his he had different communication systems. And one time we had this little dog that had died. We hadn’t even had the dog that long, but only a couple of weeks in this little Chihuahua got out and probably ran into a pack of coyotes or something. But we were creating some posters, his brother and I, for the dead Los Mortos celebrations. And Josh, of course, saw us and heard us talking about it. He was probably about eleven, and he went to his communication

device and put spot sad love. And usually his communication device. He would only ask for pretzels or every once in a while something will come out which he has since said that he found that system really confusing and didn’t work the way his brain works, but just the fact that he would every once in a while come up with something like that where something is going on in there. We know that he’s in there, and we just need to find a better system that works with how his brain works. And so now he has said how much better it is now that he can spell versus all the many different systems we tried, including sign language and text communication, which is little picture cards that you hand someone and all his different communication.

And it seems like spelling is this method is the one that resonates with how his brain works. I think Brian called it the neuro divergence.

Right? Yeah, neuro divergent brain. Yeah.

His brain is working in a way that the texting or all of these different functions, they communicate, but not in a way that he was capable of expressing himself in the way he’s been able to in the last eight years.

With, with the pictures and really all those other systems were really based on requests. So yeah, he could find, you know, he could ask for pretzels, he could ask for his favorite videos, you know, he could ask that those buttons were there and it had other buttons, like you could go to the pronouns, I go to the verbs want. But it was very complicated. You think about, I don’t know how I would have a conversation with that. It’d be impossible. Versus just having a letterboard and typing out what you want, and especially being a poet, as he is now, I mean, imagine trying to write a poem on something like that. And as he said, the words he wanted weren’t there or it took longer to access them. So, yeah, it’s so much easier in so many ways to use the letter board, and it’s certainly much more functional. And then once they learn how to do that, it’s the same 26 letters, always the same.

Well, the support group, then the support effort. You’ve taken this to a whole new level with a community up in Prescott called the Teva Community. Can you tell us a little bit about this and what people should know about it?

Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, I’m the executive director of Teva Community, and we’re a small nonprofit organization. We’re working on creating residential community as well as an educational retreat center for nonspeaking autistic adults. It’s up in Prescott, Arizona. It’s 35 acres. It used to be a former summer camp that was abandoned, and we’re now going through the process of renovating it and raising money to renovate it. The part that has been existing is going to be this educational retreat center where we will have events like a songwriting workshop, which we had one last year with great results. We don’t have running water up there yet. We don’t have electricity yet because it needs so much work. But we still had seven families there. All of the students worked one on one with Brian and created their own song and also worked on a couple of collaborative songs.

This isn’t just for I mean, this is for the like you said, the families are there. They’re all participating in this process, right?

Yeah, the families are there too. And we have six camps that we’re planning in 2023. One of them is going to be, again, up at Teva. There’s four that we’re sponsoring in Idaho, Wild Pines, California, at a camp. The owners who have that camp have a daughter who is a non speaking speller also. And so they’re really interested in doing these. So we have four that are going to be there. And then we’re going to have a surfing, boating, spelling camp in San Diego. That’s going to be a lot of fun. But the need is huge because I don’t know if you know, but there’s lots of services for like, five and under autistic people, but once they get to be teenagers or adults, there’s really very little and very little funding. So when we announced that we were having these four, each one is a three day workshop of all different activities. There’s activities for the siblings, activities for the parents. There’s respite for the parents. There’s lots of spelling opportunities and just fun engagement with

peers for the autistic individuals. We had 48 spots for these four different events through the year, and it filled up within 48 hours from all over the country. People. I mean, there’s just so much demand for it because it is relatively new and people that have been doing it with their I say kids, but a lot of them are adults really want to have opportunities for them to hang out with peers and just get those fun opportunities.

How can people find out more information about the community or support if they would like to?

Yes. Well, we would love it. The website is It’s Teva. And there’s some information on there. And if anyone wants to email, they can email me directly. The [email protected] goes to me.

Okay, do you have like, Facebook or social media?

Yes, we’re on Facebook also, and Instagram too.


And we’ll link to those from our page. Before we go, though, I was listening to Joshua’s songs and a lot of themes of trust and love. So I have to ask because this kind of came up before, but can you tell me a little bit about Sophia?

Oh, yeah, sophia is Joshua’s girlfriend. They have been I guess dating is what you it’s in a long distance relationship because she lives in Virginia and we live here in Tucson. But they met. Some great things happen from the pandemic. I mean, it was a terrible time, but there were some positive notes, especially for the non speaking community and lots of different zooms and different classes and different social groups. And so Josh met Sophia in a couple of those groups. They both especially love poetry. They both especially love trees. And so they had really bonded. And one thing of being a non speaking autistic poet is they can woo someone like nobody else. So we sent her all these love poems and love songs and she responded in kind. And they got to meet each other for the first time, not this summer, but the last summer. And then we went back this summer too. So they just have a very special relationship.

Well, I appreciate you sharing that. His songs were just filled with themes of love and of trust, and I think that’s probably a family as well as his girlfriend, Sophia. Well, Amy, thank you for spending some time with us today and barely scratching the surface here, but definitely want to do a little more research. It’s Amy Griner. She’s the executive director of Teva Community, which is [email protected]. Also the mother of Joshua Griner, who was recently featured in a concert here in Tucson at the Poetry Center and whose song will be songs are performed by Brian Laidlaw. And that album Silently Loud should be available for streaming, I understand, within the next couple of weeks.

Yes, sounds like it. Well, thank you so much, Tom.

That was Amy Griner, mother of Joshua Griner, who was a lyricist featured on Brian Laidlaw’s recently released album Silently Loud, and it is available for download now through Spotify. So we’ll exit today, a little later with Joshua’s song, but first I want to remind you that my name is Tom Heath and you are listening to life along the streetcar on downtown radio 99.1 FM and streaming on

You’re listening to Ktdt, Tucson, Arizona, 99.1 FM, downtown radio. I’m Brother Mark, host of a show called Radio Club Crawl that airs every Tuesday at 03:00 P.m.. We try to focus on most of the bands that are coming through Tucson and we give you a tasty taste of their music. You want to check out what’s happening around Tucson? Check out Radio Club crawl. Tuesdays, 03:00 P.m. Right here on Ktdt. Tucson, Arizona. 99.1 FM. Downtown radio.

Thank you very much. Enjoy your evening. Bye bye. What a way to start February off with Amy Griner talking about her son Joshua and others who came together to create an album called Silently Loud, featuring music with Brian Laidlaw and lyrics from non speaking writers with autism that span the United States. Really inspirational work and appreciate what she’s doing with the Teva community. And also a huge shout out to Tyler Meyer at the Arizona Poetry Center for bringing Brian to Tucson so he could share the live concert with Alton Grubs and Joshua in attendance. They did that Q and A, which was also very powerful. To hear their stories, or if there’s stories that you want to hear and we’re not sharing them, you got to tell us. You can do that on Instagram, Facebook, you can head over to our web page, but we have to know those hidden gems or we can’t broadcast them. So please reach out and let us know what we can share about how amazing Tucson is. And as promised, a few minutes ago, we

found that the album Silently Loud is available on Spotify. So we’re going to leave you with a song from Brain Laidlaw of the lyrics by Joshua Griner. Song is called Love That’s Real, just released here in 2023. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.