The words we use influence our own and other people’s perceptions. Non-verbal communication is something we all do — sighs, eye rolls, smiles, stomps, laughs, blinks — but what does it mean when we label a whole person as “non-verbal”?
Nonspeaking doesn’t mean I have no ideas or no way to communicate them. Nonspeaking doesn’t mean I can’t learn to read or write like everyone else. But I can’t if you don’t teach me how. And calling me nonverbal is like saying I can’t learn to read and write.~ DJ Savarese
Read the whole blog: NonSpeaking ≠ NonVerbal | Listen2Us
I prefer to be called non-reliably speaking. I am perfectly capable of thinking and making intelligent choices regarding my life if I have the facts to analyze. However, my speech is not always reliable, so I have to slow down, think about the placement of my mouth and my articulation, and spell out a word, letter by letter.~ Rishi Jena
See Rishi’s blog: Rishi’s Totally Optimistic Journey!!
I prefer nonspeaking. Much of what comes out of my mouth is unintentional. I am nonspeaking because speech is not how I communicate.~ Wyatt Dutton
See Wyatt’s blog here: Young Man Replete with Love
I prefer non-speaking as I understand all language. Non-verbal suggests I don’t understand language and doesn’t represent how I love language.~ Matt Crittenden
Read more from Matt here: The Joy of Communication
I think that non-speaker tells a more accurate story about the person because that person simply uses a different way to communicate. Other non-speakers might think differently.~ Mitchell Robins
See Mitchell’s blog here: Differences in Non-Speakers | Mitchell’s Life with Autism
I like to call myself nonspeaking because i can communicate by spelling words instead of speaking. nonverbal implies i do not understand words. how can i communicate with words if i am nonverbal?~ Philip Reyes
Read Philip’s Blog at Faith, Hope, and Love…With Autism, follow his Facebook Page and check out his articles on NeuroClastic.
I am fully capable of speech, I just can’t let you know by “verbalizing” it out loud. Just because I need to use a letter board – or another form of Alternative Communication – to share my words with the world does not at all imply I not saying things worth hearing.~ Ben Breaux
Follow Ben’s Facebook Page: Ben B. – “My Own Words: Reflections of a Non-Speaking Autistic and check out this review of The Reason I Jump.
Non-verbal brings forth a slew of assumptions about me that are entirely inaccurate – including lack of understanding language, aggressive behaviour, lack of emotional intelligence, and cognitive impairment.
I prefer non-speaking as it is a short description that encapsulates who I am more accurately. It also makes people stop and think instead of relying on what they know about me based on what they observe.~ Jordyn Pallett
Read Jordyn’s Blog: Jordyn’s Rocky Journey and follow his Facebook Page.
The topic of what to call autistics powers the future momentum of our lives. I hate being called nonverbal. It shuts us out of the places we belong. It lowers the places we are in. The places we try to get to are very loud. They are kept for the people with loud voices. Let us be nonspeakers. That’s the gateway to who we are capable of being.~ Tejas Rao Sanker
Writing for Autistics, makes Autistics learn how to use words carefully. Going to Autistics, getting their in-use words, informs the power autistics have over their words. Let us use the word nonspeaking for Autistics who cannot use speech reliably or at all. It best describes the situations we are forever in. Its future is ours. Trusting words to mean the same in our Autistic movement is the way we go further together.~ Tejas Rao Sanker
Check out Tejas’ articles on NeuroClastic.
Being nonverbal means I have no words, which is as far from the truth as it can be. I have words, but I can’t get them out with my voice.~ Gregory Tino
Read more from Gregory here: The Autistic Mind Finally Speaks.
I prefer to be called a nonspeaker.People may think I am not smart because I lack speech. I know better than anyone that Labels are not important.~ Arun Chand
Check out the latest issue of In Words We Trust, V3 issue 1, for which Arun was assistant editor.
I have words so nonverbal does not describe me. I speak but my words dont reflect my thoughts. My ipad and keyboard are my voice. I would like to have a word that describes me accurately.~ Jake Reisman
*As always, respect the individual person’s choice, but when referencing a group, go with the preference of the majority.
- Event: N is for Neurodivergent: The Parables of the X-Men with Tré Ventour-Griffiths - January 24, 2023
- Livestreaming Tuesday, January 3 with Stacia Langley, Max Benson’s Mother - December 28, 2022
- Questions for Glenda Crookes and Nathan Blenkush from Judge Rotenberg Center Regarding Electroshock Torture - July 14, 2022
Reading this was a pure joy! I clicked through on all of the links and have received so much wisdom from every single individual profiled here. Those who have Facebook pages or blogs which I could select to follow, I am following. I don’t want to miss a single word. How anyone can presume that these beautiful people have nothing to contribute is beyond me. Every one of these voices is valuable.
As a non-autistic and aging 70 yr. old white male, I have been LEARNING from this website managed by Terra for the last 3 years since Greta surfaced in Sweden. Then, Terra publicly chimed-in with some timely online education reflecting both Autistic & Aspergers definitions and characteristics. I was specifically looking to learn about this different human trait being professed by a 16 yr. old tiny female while orating to Politicians that “their houses were on fire and they should indeed panic!”
Today’s NeuroClastic Instagram series of illustrated TEXT STATEMENTS about non-speaker’s specific purpose, meaning and feelings –– was wonderfully laid out. Told a great story and helped me further interpret those who think that they cannot talk… Kudos. EXCEPTIONALLY Well done! 🙂
Two months ago after reading more from a non-vocal very young blogger here, I began pondering totally from a mechanical or medical perspective of why someone who can read, write and communicate well –– couldn’t form vocal words if vocal cords, etc., were all in good working order… Where was the breakdown in converting thoughts into spoken, verbal words? Could this be a nerve fiber issue?
My initial thoughts were learning how to speak normal, basic, first audible infant words of Mom, Mama, Mother or Dad, Dada or Father. Then up the learning ladder just like with reading, “see Dick and Jane run and jump, etc.” It is only a quick train ride and you are reading outloud and discussing The Cat in the Hat, etc… I was thinking basics of how to form words, ‘get that closed jaw jacking just a little’ and doing something else besides chewing food. And once a few basics of a, e, i, o & u phonic vocalizations are learned via the throat’s vocal exhale, then the NEW beginner’s own vocabulary can begin emerging.
Sounds quite doable to me. But what the hell do I know? I’ve been a fast and furious talker all my life…
Here is your Science Lesson: Just get over the initial “can’t do it” HUMP and begin something NEW, big and wonderful. It is just like quitting a terrible, addicting nicotine habit in reverse. It IS DOABLE… Simply BEGIN it… Two centuries ago, old Goethe wrote it down and said “DO IT NOW.”
I’ve met someone who when seriously injured and laid up for months in a leg cast, took on the task of reading the Websters Dictionaries, both Western and London versions from A to Z. Fifty years later, the same individual surprises me all the time by using “fancy” new words which really describe something deeper, more incredible. Words that are quite special and not at all common.
Just guessing here –– that some verbally silent autistic people would likely exude a deeper and unique new vocabulary, just as they hone-in their own special brain power, packaging it into special quadrants within their own noggin. Now I am chuckling… Imagine a new post ‘Covid’ Conference Gathering of former autistic non-speakers who simply learned later in life how to vocalize. I’m sure the ice-breaker conversation on the sign-in conference floor would be unique indeed. Good luck! And I’d meet you there and share in a special science lecture discussion about the Oxygen Atom. Bye. 🙂
Problems with speech but not reading and writing are either because of differences in coordination, such that your brain has problems telling your tongue what to do, or differences in things like pragmatic communication or audio processing, such that you’re kinda too un-synced to know where to begin to communicate and spoken language is just too much too fast to keep up two-ways.
Confidence almost never has anything to do with it. If anything, its the parents, teachers, and guardians’ lack of confidence that hold autistic people back from communication methods.
Autistic people struggling with mentally creating a spoken language sync with others can sort of fake that sync with scripts, but that’s kinda a highly complicated form of written word, not actual spoken communication. That’s just something that appears like spoken communication from the outside.
How do we know this isn’t just the next step in the euphemism treadmill? Maybe 20 years from now all the stereotypes people have attached to nonverbal now will be attached to nonspeaking, and people will be calling for another term to replace it.
Nonspeaking is the identifier preferred by the community and not a label imposed by those outside of the lived experience. There is a survey of the nonspeaking community on this very website, for those who want evidence of this preference. It behooves us to respect any minority or oppressed population’s declared preferences. Those whom society and medicine have labelled “nonverbal” have tokd us that they prefer to be called nonspeakers, spellers, unreliable speakers, or delayed speakers, depending upon which status applies to their particular circumstance. They do NOT want to be called “nonverbal”, which, as this article describes, is inaccurate. People who use mouth words do not get to determine which identifiers are appropriate. Nonspeakers are capable of and deserving of self-determination.
My son is non-verbal. He is not lacking the ability to communicate. The people around him need to learn to hear differently.