Speaking/Non-Speaking is a spectrum, not a binary.

I recently read a comment that many autistic people don’t fit well into a speaking vs non-speaking binary. And that is a very important point to remember. I count myself among those people.

I wrote before about how I went mute for an entire year. Though even then I wasn’t 100% non-speaking, as I did give one-word replies to questions. I have also suffered from bouts of selective mutism. Though I prefer the term situational mutism.

And as you can see from my review of the Emergency Chat App, I use AAC from time to time. And feel I may benefit from using it more in the future.

Yesterday I gave a talk at the AuSome 2020 Conference and according to folks who heard me, I did quite well. That should have surprised me, but it didn’t. It should have surprised me because I usually can’t talk out loud to large groups of strangers. And why I will probably never be a YouTuber! It didn’t surprise me because I felt comfortable and supported by the people there. That can make all the difference.

As my kids often say “words are hard”. A lot, maybe most, autistic people have trouble with spoken words. Even those of us that are “highly verbal”. I can go from being a chatterbox, interrupting people left, right, and centre, to being unable to utter a single word. And back again. Sometimes within the same day. My ability to speak changes according to my age, my stress levels, my fatigue levels, my audience, and sometimes for seemingly no reason at all.

There was also a question at the conference that mentioned “mild” vs “severe” autism. And often that can be code for “speaking” vs “non-speaking”. It is such a limiting concept. And in my mind is more a question of support. Given enough support, all autistic people can experience life with “mild” distress. And through lack of support, all autistic people will experience “severe” distress. And this comes across in our ability to communicate with others.

I had a great time speaking at the conference. And that’s because I felt 100% supported. I might even do it again at some point. But I really am much better at writing than I am at speaking. And so happy to “come home” to my blog and to writing here. And to going back to being “semi-non-speaking”.

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