The minute I wake up, my mind is active. I do not think in words. I am about as pure a visual thinker as you can get. I can visualize my life like a film, and pause at certain points, zoom in, zoom out, and rotate my viewpoint.
This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Having a near-photographic memory and being able to visualize things in such detail, in multiple formats. Well, there is one problem, and that’s when I need to translate these thoughts into a spoken description.
What is the result of this inefficient translation process? On some days, my spoken words are quite a few grades lower in articulation than the detailed flowcharts, logic diagrams, circuits, and videos that fill my mind. “Like,” “um,” “and um,” “thing,” “yeah,” “sort of like,” and other relatively poor uses of English will frequently feature in my sentences. My word choice and pronunciation is also affected, often significantly.
But there are harder days. On some days, my brain will dump spoken communication to /dev/null and return 0 on the coding loop. I am rendered speechless.
So what I do on those days, when my Broca’s area is on strike? I could give it a pay rise. What would that involve? Over-medicating myself with caffeine. And using stimulant medications that really are not good for me in the long run as they are a temporary solution to a long-term problem, and anyhow I really should not be doing this whilst I have a heart condition and an endocrine problem.
The only sensible solution is to give my Broca’s area a holiday. I don’t speak.
Oh no! You think. What would I do without speech!?
Simple. I have the ability to type on my phone. I have an app that I can type on with large print letters, and if I press a button, it will dictate what I have typed. I even have the amusing choice of four different English accents. Others use tablets or devices specifically-designed for AAC (augmentative and alternative communication).
Now, this is not unusual amongst autistics. I know many autistics who don’t speak at all, or who speak “part time.” Their reasons may not be exactly the same as mine, but I have heard that my issues are actually relevant to autism. Autistics have a higher incidence of having a condition called apraxia.
So, don’t put pressure on us autistics if we can’t speak– we aren’t being willful or rude. We genuinely have a neurological programming syntax error that we cannot work around. We may type on devices and have the device speak for us.
It’s not weird. It’s not something to mutter, “Why can’t you just speak?” about. We aren’t being obnoxious. We aren’t “crazy.”
There are multiple ways of communicating.
Speaking is not the only way.