I recently saw more comments from parents or caregivers bemoaning the fact that their non speaking child “can’t even tell me if they are happy or sad”
This is a frequent complaint from parents who are stuck on verbal speech as *better* or employing the “Not Like My Child” trope used against autistic advocates who type online. See also the “different types of autism” myth.
Everyone communicates. Absolutely everyone. My son is non speaking but he communicates all the time without saying a word.
- He brings me to the fridge or the pantry when he is hungry. I then offer things he usually likes until i get the right one
- He hands me his water cup and I fill or refill it
- He will clench his legs tightly if I am not using his super soft clothes (all his clothes are soft , but we have a hierarchy and sometimes the favored ones are in the wash) He makes it so that I can’t dress him until the right ones are used. Then he relaxes his legs to be dressed.
- He will pull my bag down when he wants to go someplace (figuring out where is still a work in progress)
- He will climb into his stroller when he wants to sit in it or leave
- He climbs in the bathtub if he wants to play in the water
- He uses different pitches to indicate happiness or dissatisfaction.
- He cries in different volumes and types, depending on what he needs
- He pushes me away firmly with his feet when he wants space on the couch or the floor
- He puts my hand on a book or toy he wants
- He throws a blanket on himself he wants to play this hiding game we do.
- He asks his sister for things by doing many of the above
There are many more examples I could give for how O communicates without words or letter sounds. He is *not* non- verbal.
It’s not a perfect system and I definitely get it wrong plenty of times. I am not a mind reader. His voice is his own. But he is telling me things all day. Asking for them. Expressing consent or refusal to do things. Showing preferences.
We respect O’s right to autonomy and to communicate his way. We love him unconditionally and accept him wholly as he is. No form of communication is better than another. That is ableism.
People can communicate through:
American Sign language
Leading someone by the hand
And many, many more methods that may or may not involve any amount of spoken language.
There are infinite ways for any person to communicate. The question is- are you paying attention?
(Pictured is Owen with turkey bacon and pan)