Speaking without vocalising – Two Interviews with Autistics

Em Scott

Em Scott

Em Scott is an admin in my Facebook support group for Autistics and parents of autistic children. She was featured in my ABA article.

Here is my interview with Em.

Can you tell us a little about yourself to begin?

My name is Em. I am 31 and have severe autism with mild intellectual disability.

I have two to one support and live in a home for people with mixed but complex disabilities.

I was non verbal up until the end of my twenties when I got sectioned in a intellectual disability acute hospital for four months.

As a child I communicated in just behaviour which left other people around me very frustrated and left me depressed and full of hatred towards people.

As a teen I echolalicaly spoke in singular words but I preferred to be non verbal so I rarely spoke. I didn’t feel connected to people so didn’t feel a need to talk. I made a lot of sound though through stimming.

What is it like for you now and how do you choose to communicate?

As an adult, I speak but all my sentences are built on echolalic memory so it isn’t free speech as such but it allows me to have conversation.

I use Makaton and PECS to back up my speech,i have used both of these since a teen, I also used AAC for years until my favourite AAC software became unusable on current windows.

I prefer to use Makaton as my main communication, I instinctively do it first before my brain translates its imagery into language.

What are your thoughts on treatments that encourage verbal communications?

I believe verbal communication shouldn’t be pushed because it causes a lot of stress for us and for people who have been non verbal their whole life its expecting them to change their world, to take on another way of life.

Being non verbal isn’t a bad or upsetting thing, its freedom in a way as we don’t have the stress of language but at the same time its not good when people don’t think we can communicate in other ways such as typing and treat us like babies by speaking for us.

I’d still rather be non verbal-my life is so less complicated and difficult without the use of my mouth.

The fact that people often speak over the heads of non verbals and completely disregard them in favour of the accompanying verbal caregivers is in my view blatant discrimination. It plainly affects confidence and self esteem as they are trying to communicate yet are ostracised repeatedly and portrayed as having no voice as they do not vocalise.

Now after reading both these accounts from two autistics who use a variety of means to interact including Picture Exchange Card System, Makaton / American Sign Language and communication devices, it should be clear to anybody reading this that verbalising is not the be all and end all of interaction.

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About Emma Dalmayne

Emma Dalmayne has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome along with Synthanesia. She has six children on varying degrees of the most spectrum so easily. When she is not writing exposes as an autistic advocate, her days are spent doing sensory play, reading, outings, and taking them to therapies e.g. play therapy, music therapy, speech, and language.