When we are far more willing to believe in the capacity for communication of animals and aliens than we are in that of nonspeaking and intellectually disabled autistic people, and extend our research and creativity towards mutual understanding, no, I have to reject the assertion that “Some autistic people just can’t communicate.”
Think of your goal less about “doing it right” and more about “getting comfortable with AAC.” I’ve seen fear of being wrong all too often lead to no modeling. And I promise some modeling, modeling with mistakes, modeling slowly, all of it is better than no modeling.
Hyperverbal expression, whether it is verbalized or experienced internally, is autism and it is a disability. It has less to do with the volume of words expressed and more to do with the processing style that is common to some autistic people.
These revelations, about presuming competence, human dignity, and the least dangerous assumption—they don’t apply only to kids who are secret geniuses. They apply to everyone. They are the most important for the kids who really do have intellectual disabilities, who really can’t read or use full sentences and who really do need extensive support.
Trust that your autistic child can thrive alongside others, whether with spoken words, or not. Do not be afraid to tell the next salesperson, arriving with a false horror story about how your child will never achieve anything without their ‘Patented Treatment,’ that you have more confidence in your child than they do.
“It’s hard a lot of the time to know what I’m supposed to be paying attention to, what’s relevant to that particular conversation. I have to sift through all of the data and consciously keep track of what matters, and what doesn’t.”
I regret that I didn’t give my non-speaking son the opportunities to display an interest in things that I assumed he wouldn’t understand. I regret that my assumptions limited him when they should have been expanding his world.